When I stand in front of a canvas it opens up the wonderful possibilities of representing the human, with our madness, sadness, excitements, joys, and ugliness.”
– Michael Chittock
Michael Chittock’s paintings are expressions of his fascination with human beings and our relationships with nature and each other. His works explore the ever-evolving connections that we have to our social contexts, and how these can produce the ideas we hold about ourselves. They call attention to the many possible reactions we have to visual stimuli in a variety of often emotionally-charged settings, and explore the complexities and fragility of human communication. Chittock focuses on individuals, situations from his extensive international travels, and the often edgy relationships between family members, friends, and lovers.
His artistic explorations have led him to produce works that present viewers with multifaceted moments that Chittock captures from aspects of our wonderful, awkward, convoluted, and sometimes unsettled public and private lives. He seamlessly integrates formal spaces, color relationships, and figures within compelling non-linear narratives. As opposed to serialized stories, these encourage voyeuristic viewpoints, as momentary glimpses into stories that we finish through the act of looking and interpreting, attempting to create meaning. His paintings come to life in surprising, even troubling ways, often within aesthetically harmonious color and formal interactions.
Chittock sees the role of the artist as collecting and editing information and reorganizing it into aesthetic frameworks. His works reveal this in the disjunctive nature of many of their narrative passages where language, images, colors, and symbols mix together within often rigorously formal structures. Viewers are invited to make their own meanings out of the information he provides, remember our own ways of relating to others, and realize the many ways in which human beings interact (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more).
Chittock’s paintings are markers of time and place. When working with a specific subject in one of his series, he views his process as freezing moments from memory that would otherwise disappear in the fleeting movement of time. He is never without his sketch book and often marks down his impressions in order to refer to them later in his studio. He also uses photos and his own memories as sources for his work. To him, the enjoyment of painting is in representing life’s journey, either in narrative moments with the figure, or in the subtle changes of light in the spaces of his landscapes.
Chittock grew up in the wild forests of northeastern California, and recalls the excitement of journeying down unknown paths that often revealed new light, new vistas, changing colors on the mountains—this parallels his artistic process. He surprises himself in the dialogues that are set up in his paintings, which serve to remind us of how we ourselves makes stories out of the situations of our lives.
Chittock’s works remind us, in often subtle and sometimes suggestive ways, that we are all voyeurs into the human condition.
Paul Eli Ivey, Tucson, Arizona