Monday, June 01, 2009
Artist of the Month: James Christensen
I first saw James Christensen's work when I was at the Kent Institute of Art & Design, sitting on the shelf in the library, staring me in the face with what appeared at first glance to be my own name. My initial surprise soon gave way to pleasure when I opened the book, and then a certain amount of envy and resentment. How dare some one with my name (or as near as damn it) be better at painting than I am, I thought. What an intolerable impudence! It took me several days to get over my indignation, but when I did I finally decided I really liked what I saw.
It didn't come as any great surprise to learn the fellow was an American, nor older than I by a generation. He had to be older to have done so many great pictures and America seems to have spawned all the greatest illustrators since 1945.
Christensens work is quite unusual, in that it combines multiple elements, especially in his earlier work, including Rennaissance and medieval iconography with mythological figures and pure fantasy. Fairies ride fish in the air and weird hump backed figures with sad sleepy faces, looking like they sprang from a 1960's Terry Gilliam animation, march through abstract rooms, bearing candles and books. Whats not to love?
As years have passed his work has taken on a more religious slant, but at the same time, its become ever more detailed and evocative, and its easy to forgive the Christian flavour when its not over powering. I certainly have no problem with it.