Chris Aerfeldt is an award-winning Australian born artist of Estonian parents now based in Montpellier and Barcelona.
She is the recipient of a scholarship to Adelaide Central School of Art, South Australia, as well as the highly prized Samstag Scholarship to undertake an MFA at Chelsea College of Art in London.
Her work has been exhibited with galleries in Australia, the UK and France, and acquired by private and public collections, including Charles Saatchi, David Roberts, The University of the Arts London, Artbank and The Art Gallery of South Australia.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS AERFELDT
Q: Why did you become an artist?
I grew up feeling invisible and overlooked.
As a hyper-sensitive and anxious child, born to refugee parents in Adelaide, Australia, I craved to fit in, to be noticed and feel 'good enough'. I tried to be the best at everything (school, art, singing, tennis) and thought that achievements would result in happiness and belonging. However, inside I was churning with emotions and thoughts. At the age of eleven I started making oil paintings in my dad's shed to access and express what I couldn't say out loud. That's why for me, images speak louder and faster than words.
With pictures I could transform all that was not right in my world.
As a child I took whatever pictures I could lay my hands upon to use as source material, and adapted them for my own purposes. I made drawings based on our kitchen calendar photos of the Swiss Alps. I secretly cut up our set of family encyclopaedias to extract reproductions of my favourite old master paintings - I knew no one would ever look to check. Old family photos from the farm in Estonia found their way into my pictures as well as images of pretty women in nice dresses found in newspapers and junk mail.
Q: Why do you make art?
I get overwhelmed easily - I absorb too much information and somehow need to process and make sense of it. For me, a picture is a place where I can place a mass of potentially contradictory information and have it co-exist in a truthful yet complex way. There are always multiple situations, stories and points of view combined in each artwork; both the bitter and the sweet. The paintings act like visual filing cabinets - a space for the messy and beautiful to be deposited together.
Going deeper is just what I do by default. I can't help it. Instead of shutting the door and blocking out information, or escaping to some sort of mindless distraction or anaesthetising activity, I delve inside myself, and simultaneously spend hours researching whatever topic intrigues me at the time. Art is a way to face difficult things head on; processing and ordering aspects of life as honestly as I can. I am a truth seeker in a world where relativity reigns.
The act of transforming what is complicated, difficult and contradictory into something good and better through pictures is my way of trying to repair the world. I want to look at life 'better'. When you change the way you see and think about things it changes the way you act.
Q: Why paint?
Paint on canvas is my main medium because I love the humility of using these simple materials and continuing an artistic lineage, whilst trying to add my little piece to the grand story. I quite like the idea of being thought of as slightly retrograde in an art world establishment that is largely in love with newer technology. Preferring simplicity in life, I try to keep my art methods as uncomplicated as I can (although painting is never simple) in order to deal with the multitude of ideas.
Each mark made is a personal artefact; an archeology of a particular moment. Emotion and thought is transformed into a specific kind of gesture where the painting implement meets with the painted surface. Paint is layered thought.
In contrast to film, music, or performance, paintings don't impose any time constraints on the viewer. It is totally your choice whether you give a picture a simple glance or choose to spend an hour in front of it. No one is telling you when to start or stop - you decide. This offering of total liberty to the viewer appeals to me as a way of communication.
Q: How do you choose your subjects?
I am drawn to everyday subjects - things that we see in everyday life but may not take much notice of. I like to add value to the overlooked or under cared-for.
My language is that of metaphor and symbols, but used in a personal mix-and-match way. I steal from art history, and have learned a few tricks from the fashion industry and magazine editorials.
People often ask, 'why do you paint women?' Well, for a start we have had centuries of men painting women, and I am not sure that anyone asked them to explain. As a woman painting female characters, it is bound to offer a different point of view from the past; the inside story, based on my own experiences.
I transform my characters into heroines and set them off on epic journeys like we see in grand history and mythology paintings. Everyday life is an equallyepic journey, although it probably bears a closer resemblance to Marge and Homer Simpson than to Homer's Odyssey.
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