“Like a pianist who knows their repertoire so well they let their fingers do the playing, Gwaltney’s mark making is so casually done that it appears arbitrary. However, it is anything but inconsequential and is filled with meaning. In Tied to Memory, for example, the figure bisecting the horizon line seems to be moving off away from the viewer into the landscape.”
Former Director Laguna Art Museum
Gwaltney’s paintings are a reflection of his life and his place in it. His focus here is his family and the sunlit open sky along the beautiful coastline of Laguna Beach. The paintings are introspective, as he embraces a time of reflection and solitude.
About his Work:
Chris Gwaltney says: “The painting is a problem to be solved. It’s a puzzle, an equation that’s looking for a solution. I’m drawn to art that allows me to see elements of that argument. The ruins of original thoughts still visible in lines or shapes in the finished painting engage me. Corrections, erasures, scratchouts, over-paint and redraws are evidence of an active mind at work. The painting becomes a testament to time well spent. The emotional juice comes as much from the marks on the canvas as it does from the subject matter. The viewer is aware of the artist standing in front of the canvas.”
“I work in “series”, “series’s”?? Ok then, themes. I start with many marks and smears and drips, usually black or gray. A figure or 5 will suggest itself/ themselves and I will begin giving it/them some personality and attitude. Although the paintings are personal to me I want an ambiguity, a lack of specificity to each figure. Looking for a more iconic image through gesture and silhouette than eyelashes and facial expression. I then start writing phrases and passages from poems that excite me at the time. And then? …. I just keep setting up color relationships that are either benign or aggressive until I like it. Usually I will redraw and scratch out if I feel things are getting too precious or final. Leaving evidence of my arguments on the canvas are important and the artists I admire the most do that as well, such as Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly as well as the sculpture of Nathan Olivera, Stephen de Staebler and Manuel Neri.”
Chris Gwaltney was born in Van Nuys, California. He sketched and drew from an early age and after an injury that left him on crutches for a year and a half, at the insistence of an artist friend, he started painting.
He attended California State University at Fullerton where he received Degrees in Bachelors of Arts in 1984 and then Masters of Fine Arts in 1986. He was approached by gallerist Diane Nelson with the offer of a solo show while hanging his Graduate Exhibition.
Over the next 29 years Gwaltney has been a feature artist with numerous galleries: Diane Nelson 1986-1991, Peter Blake Gallery 1993-2011, Robert Green Gallery 1997-2005, Sue Greenwood Gallery 2011-2013, Tria Gallery, Chelsea, NY (2010-2014)
Currently Gwaltney shows with Seager/Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, CA (2011-present) Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, Utah, (2008-present) and recently with Cadogan Contemporary in Kensington, London, UK.
Gwaltney’s influences hail strongly from the Bay Area Figurative school and include such favorites as Nathan Olivera, Manuel Neri, Joan Brown, de Stabler and Joan Mitchell. In terms of mark making and palette, he looks to Deibenkorn, Jean Michel Basquiat, Twombly, de Kooning and Linda Stojak.
For Gwaltney, gestures and their implied emotions are more important than pure representation and finish. Gwaltney has used his entire family as source material; from the growth of his children, the resiliency and strength of his wife to the passing of both his father and his father-in-law. He feels these relationships are the most honest way to express layered emotion.
Gwaltney’s process is one of construction and then deconstruction, “I’m a better editor than I am an inventor. I’ll paint in many figures and let them fight it out.” He allows for the underlying sketches, the “original argument”, to show through in the end result.
Gwaltney likes to think that, “a painting is a testament to time well spent.”
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