With an unrelenting attention to detail, evoked with emotion and humanity, artist Christopher Mudgett brings his experiences to life. By giving freely of himself to his art, his ideas are translated into a moving depiction of feeling, which lends itself to a deeper and more meaningful visual story.
How did you come to discover your artistic process? My extensive background in music has played an integral roll in my development as a visual artist. Many hours of experience improvising have been a major contributor to my painting and drawing process. I see the flowing lines in my work as melodies and the way that those lines interact with one another as harmonies, together creating a powerful visual song. What concerns me most is the authenticity of what is being communicated over its aesthetic. The eye can be misleading and to rely solely on it would be to deny what is truly important in a work of art… emotion. Everyday, when in the studio, I remind myself that I can do no wrong here and that there are no mistakes in art. I then proceed to put myself completely into my work… this is the only way I know how to create.
Are your portraits born from pure visualization or do you utilize subjects. If so, how do you select your subjects? My work is very much “autobiographical” and always been heavily influenced by the ideas associated with particular people and/or things in my life. Although I require no visual references during the creative process, I do constantly recall noteworthy experiences I’ve shared with the people I’m portraying. In this way, I am able to transcend their outer appearance and transform attributes, both emotional and physical, into visual symbols which appear though out my work and give particular pieces their unique identity.
Your portraits have a Picasso-esque feel to them, while remaining entirely unique. From where do you draw your greatest inspiration? My art is fed by life experience and other art, I appreciate history and truly believe that only by looking back are we able to move forward as artists or as people. Much can be learned from the artists of the past and to apply that knowledge is pure magic. Possessing the information handed down to me, gives me the ultimate upper hand because I can take that which has already been done and build on top of it, there is no need to copy anything. Picasso was an undeniable force, but he too was human, and there was only so far he could take visual language within his lifetime. So for me, my greatest inspiration is knowing that I am here today, walking the earth… brush in hand and with it I can do whatever I want, I have the opportunity to go even further.
Describe the motivation behind your effort to create a “race-less but not faceless” portrait of humanity: I’m interested primarily in revealing the fundamental form of things. The connectivity of the lines and how they communicate with one another fascinate me a great deal. Color would only distract from this aim and it has no place in my work right now. Although constraining myself to using only a monochromatic palette allows me to simplify my imagery, many complexities arise within. The face gives a much clearer glimpse into a person. Are we able to feel the same connection with someone solely based on the color of their skin? The expression of the face, the eyes, these are the gateway to the soul and there you will find who a person truly is. So when painting, these are the ideas on which I place a great deal of emphasis.
How does your method of closed-eye or single-line drawing lend itself to your art? These two methods offer me an uninhibited way to transform my thoughts and ideas into something tangible. They typically begin as drawings, and in most cases, are the foundation for what later will become a more detailed and intricate work. I always try to leave as much of the initial rendering in the final piece as possible. This way I am able to anchor within the work it’s original intent and the truths that I naturally wanted to convey.
As an artist, do you feel as if you have an obligation to society? Yes, to society but above all to myself. I think by honoring one you satisfy both. There is so much wrong in the world, but also much right. It’s easy to get lost in the thick of it all. Art for me is a place to clear my mind and channel my inner most self all the while being in direct communication with my desires and my work. Only by participating in the ritual of creation am I able to fully understand my experiences and share them with others. I strongly believe in the notion that we are all unified, both in our existence and our humanity. We all encounter a wide spectrum of emotions daily, not all of which are puppies and roses. While other artists may paint pictures that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to swallow, I prefer to take my feelings, no matter how painful, and paint them vividly so that when someone experiences my work, the same emotions are evoked within them. Although, at first glance, the viewer may not understand exactly what it is that they are looking at, they will certainly feel the undeniable power of my intent. By giving freely of myself, I am able to bring something of real substance into the world, something which has the potential to bring us all a little closer together. I consider this form of expression to be one of life’s greatest gift and one which I will certainly never take for granted.
Portrait of Christopher Mudgett by Coy Koehler.