Artist Talk with Chris Down

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Chris Down, Beacon, 2018

The Owens Art Gallery puts on a series entitled ‘Our Town Artist Talks’ which invites artists from Sackville NB, intended to give audiences an opportunity to hear from artists living and working in the community.

This years artist was Chris Down. He has exhibited his work nationally, written features, reviews and catalogue essays for a variety of publications in Canada and is currently associate professor in painting and drawing at Mount Allison University.

His talk encompassed a lot of his career, and how he has come to conclusions about why he makes art. Focusing on art as a tool for navigating life, all of Down’s work is loosely biographical. Quoting Edvard Munch, Down explained his aesthetic theory as; “In my art, I tried to explain life and its meaning to myself. I also intended to help others understand life better.” and through Mattise’s quote; “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

I don’t know if I completely agree with these ideas myself, but understand the desire to reach those goals within art. Down said that if he wants to create political change, there are more effective ways than in a gallery. An idea that is quite disparate from his earlier work which focuses on themes of environmental destruction, news headlines and other global issues.

His recent work focuses on his relationship to photography, the way his sons experience the world and his surroundings, which are also my surroundings. Through this his process of creating art has become “about putting artwork out that breaks from your own cynicism and detachment.” under the media of painting and drawing.

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Chris Down, Pile, 2012

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