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New York Foundation for the Arts Speaks with 2010 Fellow Christopher Gallego
Hello Chris, would you tell us about what you’re working on right now, and what’s coming up for you?
For some time I have been interested in the idea of creating depth. Whether it’s a still life, or more obviously an interior, I think of painting as an investigation of space. I do this by painting as many shifts in tone and clarity as I can find. Presently I’m revisiting a series of studio interiors I began in Brooklyn a while ago, and am looking forward to an exhibition at the Brigham Young Museum in July.
When did you begin painting, and how did you choose your medium?
I began fairly young, encouraged by my father, also a painter. There were always oil paints and canvas in the house when I was growing up. I found the materials irresistible, so it wasn’t really a choice and it didn’t seem unique. I assumed everybody painted.
How have your methods and vision shifted over time?
Everything has become more subtle, including vision and technique, and the compositions have become more spare. There are pros and cons to these changes. The”fight” that once energized my work as a young artist is something I now re-create. But I no longer sweat the inevitable setbacks that occur in a work and am much more in control than a decade ago.
How do you view representation in your paintings?
Depiction is just the starting point. It’s the vehicle for expresisng something beyond the subject itself.
Painting is a personal language that can evoke an entire range of feelings. My work is all about perception, and perception I feel is a gift. The ability human beings have to make sense of our world and be moved by it is something to be celebrated. Most things are beautiful, but we are taught otherwise and frankly just don’t have the time to really look.
Do you think about viewers of your work? Do you have any expectations for how viewers will respond to what you create?
Yes, anticipation of the response of others is usually operating in the background. I try not to make it my primary concern as I feel an artist should lead rather than follow. But I do pay attention to it. I think artists have a reputation for being perfectionists, but this is not always the case. For example, I like the look of fresh paint on canvas so much that I am often tempted to leave passages of the painting unresolved or abstract. I check this temptation by putting myself in the shoes of the viewer, and recalling certain responses that others have shared.
What are some of your goals as an artist?
My main goal is to stay present while I’m working, to be fully engaged in the process and not get caught up in a drive for results. This of course leads to better results. In terms of career, I’d like to deliver some memorable work and inspire the next generation of painters.
What is your workspace or studio like?
For several years I have lived and worked in the Catskills, about two hours from New York. I feel supremely lucky to be able to step out of my studio, a renovated skylit garage, and be surrounded by magnificent pines. It’s ironic however the way I’m still drawn to urban motifs.
Who or what are you influenced by right now?
My heroes are continually changing. Right now Morandi, Dickenson, Cezanne are my favorite painters. Velasquez and Vermeer are always there. What I admire in all of them is their sensitivity, simplicity and directness.
How has the NYFA Fellowship impacted you?
The material support of course was a great help. I realize that I have been in more shows in this one year period than in any other. I’m certain the prestige of this fellowship has impressed curators and opened doors. I’ve been introduced to the work of other fellows past and present, and am very pleased to be in their company.