Chris Anthem ‘Fledge’
The soul grazes the paper, and immediately the foot slips Helen Cixous, Stigmata
To “Fledge” is to care for, to nurture, to feather a nest, but in contrast it is also to make an arrow (the root of fletch). It is along these two poles of the tender and an implied wound that Chris Anthem’s paintings oscillate. Presenting a fragile and visceral vision of the human condition.
southern Ethiopia amongst the tribes of the Omo valley, and figures sublimated into a western aesthetic from street life in Addis Ababa. The silhouette of a cranium form is rendered in black household gloss paint; flat and resistant these heads evoke ideas of a figure balaclava-ed, veiled, masked or helmeted.
Predominantly working on paper used for dress patterns that he associates with his childhood (his mother tailored whilst working at a doctor’s house; an early introduction to medical illustrations that often appear in the work). These delicate surfaces appear fragile in contrast to the often heavy mark making and weight of paint. The reading of these surfaces can be extended through recent paintings on animal hides, where the epiderm is scored, t a t t o o e d a n d s t i t c h e d . I t i s a c r o s s the intimate quality of the surfaces that the paint often seems to function as a balm to heal some ineffable rift.
In 2012 Anthem relocated to Beirut in Lebanon; where growing tensions spilling over from the Syrian conflict have reinvigorated sectarian and religious differences within the neo-conservative consumerist society that Lebanon has become after it’s own devastating civil war. In his words it is: ”a place where the wound is buried deep in an amnesiac consumerism and neurotic self consciousness. A place where globalisation is mistaken for cosmopolitanism.”
The works on animal skins originated whilst working in a studio in Ethiopia in 2011/12. They developed through being both open to the subtleties and ambiguities of place, and of alienation to that place. These images combine forms and patterns from drawings made in
Here his mixture of high art baroque figuration, blended with allusions to tribal difference, and the use of materials associated with both consumerism, tribalism and his own intimate childhood have found a new resonance. It is in this context that the innate humanity and tender violence of his work responds to the contemporary and historical energies of time and place.
Rented 200 x 150 cm (approx) oil and mixed media on hide
Five Studies for the Head of John the Baptist 190 x 150 cm (approx) oil and mixed media on hide
Zemecha 1 70 x 50 cm (approx) oil and mixed media on hide
Zemecha 2 90 x 60 cm (approx) oil and iodine on hide
Zemecha 3 90 x 60 cm (approx) oil and mixed media on hide
Zemecha 4 90 x 60 cm (approx) oil and iodine a on hide
Fledge 148 x 115 cm each (diptych) oil and mixed media on dress pattern paper
Uterine Head of Hafez Assad 148 x 120 cm oil and mixed media on dress pattern paper
Chy Colom 120 x 80 cm oil, mixed media, dress pattern paper on canvas stretcher
Rented (Woman with Trout) 90 x 90 cm oil, mixed media, dress pattern paper on canvas stretcher
Rented (Girl with Fork) 90 x 90 cm oil, mixed media, dress pattern paper on canvas stretcher
Scafander 120 x 70 cm oil, mixed media, dress pattern paper on canvas stretcher
United 40 x 60 cm oil, mixed media, dress pattern paper on canvas stretcher
Girl with Swimming Aid 60 x 50 cm oil, mixed media, on Zara bag 28
Figure with Shield 60 x 50 cm oil, mixed media, on Zara bag 29
“In the studio the dress patterns hang, floating from a baton, secured like flags in a country church. They billow where the studio draft lifts them. They breath. The cow hides hang gruff heavy. Each extend the quality of the other – as dress, as surface, as weight. Paint has an ambiguous nature; on the one hand pertaining to be other than its material actuality, whilst it still offers the possibility of being congruent with an honesty of spirit. I recognise that honesty in paintings when I’ve managed to keep its energy there. In some paintings that honesty dies, it gets lost in its own rhetoric and the painting’s energy dies, or rather the paintings commit their own clichéd suicide, stillborn in the cowl glister of varnish. It still surprises me that honesty and mortality are still so co-dependent and that short-cuts of effect kill paintings. Every successful painting that I’ve done has had at its core a tangible event, something unresolved and nagging to get itched. That before the idea, the internal image, before the composition and the stitching of sources and technique there is the event. In the painting, in spite of its seductive surfaces and its neurotic baroque, there lies some tender actuality that only a brush and oil would soothe, and only a humility of mark can address. Paint and oil are the salve that cures the surface - balm of a meglip scab. And I guess it’s that rupture, that intrusion on the surface tension on the canvas; or paper, or mind, or body, that the rest of the painting dresses - like you would, whether functionally or theatrically, a wound.”
Chris Anthem, Lebanon 2013
Chris Anthem was born in the UK in 1974; graduating in fine art from Liverpool John Mooreâ€™s University and the Slade School of Art London (1993-1998). He currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon with his wife Rania, and baby son Nur.
Selected Exhibitions & Projects
2013 2012 2011 2006 2003 1999 1998 1996
Fledge, Millennium (solo) Dressage, Budapest Art Factory, Budapest, Hungary (solo) Beirut Art Fair, Lebanon Fadi Mogabgab Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon (solo) Freedom From Torture, CMR Gallery, Reduth, Cornwall Residence Alia, Chouf Mountains, Lebanon (Artists residency) Fadi Mogabgab Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon TR-Fifteen, CMR Gallery, Redruth, Cornwall Asni Gallery, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (solo) The Fish Factory, Falmouth, Cornwall Plumbline and Orchard Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall Cap, 8 Wilson Street Gallery, Bristol (solo) Thawing, Street art project, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (project) Play, MOB, Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, UK (solo) Egg Gallery, Liverpool (solo) Pulse II, Emerging Artists from the North West, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool
Chris Anthemâ€™s work can be found in the collections of their excellencies the Al-Thani Family of Qatar and Byblos Bank, Lebanon. Current projects include development of Alia Artists Residence in the Chouf mountains of Lebanon as a destination for international artists, and collaborations with the Lebanese post-punk band Scrambled Eggs.
Published by Millennium to coincide with the exhibition â€˜Fledgeâ€™ by Chris Anthem All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers
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Hard back book to accompany the exhibition 'Fledge' by Chris Anthem held at Millennium, St. Ives