Interview: Christopher Colville

Nothing is the Rule © Christopher Colville

Kayla Massey: My first question for you is that in a lot of your work there seems to be a strong tie between the image itself and the entire process or almost ritual you preform along with it. When and why did you decide that was an important step with your work and are you happy with the outcome?

Christopher Colville: Art and photography are funny things and we all have different motivations for creating work. I create work as a way to engage the world in an attempt to better understand what it means to be part of all this. I feel that many photographers are looking for some sort of truth or fact that can be neatly tied up in the photographic frame, but I am suspicious of that sort of work or static understanding. The artist William Kentridge speaks about understanding the world as process rather than a series of facts and this is in line with my own feelings. Everything is shifting, changing and becoming something new and I want to make work that engages these changes. I also feel that people find comfort and meaning through ritual, weather it is the morning ritual of visiting the local coffee shop or something involved in a religious system of beliefs.

I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to work through ritual but it has always felt like a natural way to work. To be honest some of my more ritual practices are tied up concepts but others are more like practice, which is really more a way of creating a framework to sustain work. Either way, sustained practice or intellectual rituals provide a natural way for me to gain a better understanding of what I am working with or thinking about.

Dark Emanations © Christopher Colville

Kayla Massey: Your work is set on the basis of a very strong idea that might not always be apparent without the text to go along with it by explaining your entire process and what exactly the viewer is looking at. How important is it to you that the viewer knows the origin of the work you create?

Christopher Colville: Ideas and questions drive my work, but I am not always that worried about finding answers. I am also not that worried that my audience understands every part of my practice. When you put your work out into the world you lose a certain amount of control over it and this is exciting. If the work is strong it will take on a life of its own and transform into something better than you could have imagined. I feel that part of our work is to seduce your audience with suggestions, but it is their job to complete the investigation and hopefully come up with their own questions. If the work is strong enough, people will take the time to gain or create an understanding of its origin.

Sonoran © Christopher Colville

Kayla Massey: How did you become interested in this process where it seems that you have very little control in how the final image will turn out but is rather determined by the subject you choose and the light conditions of that day?

Christopher Colville: Control. When it comes down to it we have very little control over anything, and this relates to the topic of understanding the world in terms of process rather than facts. I have two young children and I am becoming very aware that I can’t control them. I can create frameworks to guide their growth as individuals, I can influence them and give them everything I have, but in the end they are going to grow up and become their own people. I can only hope I have done my part in influence who they will become. Artwork is the same.

I make many different types of work. The two bodies that I am currently focused on, both in one way or another, celebrate the loss of control. This is most apparent in the gunpowder work where I am making explosions on photographic material.

At the same time, the images from the series Instar, appear to be the most controlled because they employ the language of large format landscape photography, but the images are of phenomena that are a part of a continuum of experience that remain a mystery to me. I suppose the only thing I want to control is my medium so I can obliterate it and allow it to become something new.

Trace Identities Installation © Christopher Colville

Kayla Massey: How important is the installation and the way your photographs are viewed to you and your work?

Christopher Colville: This completely depends on the work. Some bodies of work demand the performative experience of an installation. Other, more traditionally photographic bodies of work rely on sequence. I do love the emotional impact installation can provide, but it is not always the right answer, some times the images need to do the work on their own.

Instar © Christopher Colville

Kayla Massey: Through your work you are asking the viewer to think about and consider a lot of larger ideas. While making this work have you discovered new ideas or beliefs within yourself and if so how has that affected your work?

Christopher Colville: I generally don’t know where I am going to end up when I begin a new body of work. More often than not I start with one question and end up somewhere completely unexpected. It is the surprises and discoveries that happen along the way that allow work to evolve. I believe the most exciting point in the creation of a body of work is when you are running at full speed, working as hard as you can, but a complete understanding of the work is just outside your reach. When you don’t fully understand what you are doing, but know you are heading in the right direction, the desire to understand propels you and makes the work worthwhile. In the end, the new questions or understanding I find through work lead to the next body. If you have the answers before you get started, you should be asking different questions.

Sonoran © Christopher Colville

For more of Christopher Colvilles work and more information visit http://christophercolville.com/

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