When we asked Christopher Burk what drew him towards painting, he gave us a quick and straight answer: “For me, this is an easy question to answer. Painting is a practice that has almost always resonated with me. It has been a constant in my life and the only true thing that I’ve wanted to do.” His work usually involves scenes of suburban landscapes, whose carefully chosen composition and dusky colour palette is carefully accentuated with warm sources of artificial light and long shadows.
For his latest series, Flooded, Christopher produces a series of pastel paintings depicting large aerial vistas of flooded landscapes. The artist is currently based in Columbus, Ohio after a stint in New York. “During that time away, I was doing very little art-making and feeling very unfulfilled. So I moved back to Columbus six years ago to have uninterrupted time to focus on making art,” Christopher tells It’s Nice That. “The inception of this new series, the flood paintings, is relatively new as it was started within the last year.” Initially starting as individual portraits of flooded houses, he has expanded the work in a direction that makes the paintings feel vast and ominous.
“When it comes to my work, the one notion that is consistent in each series is finding the everyday beauty in the landscape – manmade or natural – and presenting that perspective to the viewer,” he says. With each series influencing the next, this common denominator prevails. A series of floods in the United States in the summer, also impacting many Midwestern states that neighbours Ohio, Christopher felt bombarded by imagery of these areas on the evening news.
“These birds-eye vantage points pertained to my philosophy of ‘finding the beauty in the unorthodox,’ the concept was then borne out of that experience,” he says. “Each painting, which served as a portrait, was rather minimal in their approach. They consisted of a flooded dwelling surrounded in a sea of quiet, abstracted colour. The new series has now begun to shift into the imagery of more complex compositions that concentrate on deluged vistas rather than just a lonesome house.”
In these landscapes, Christopher paints not from a perpendicular perspective, but more akin to a helicopter ride in search for survivors. The tranquillity in these paintings, which look like impossibly vast marshes on first glance, come from the calm shadows of clouds that hang outside the canvas, streaking its shade that wrap around and above dense bushes of greenery. The lack of debris, still waters and horizontal shadows of trees add to the feeling of calm. In this way, these are fictional, utopian landscapes of floods where Christopher finds beauty through a lack of human presence and his manipulation of light.
“My fascination is the landscape in all its translations. A repetitive pattern that is consistent in all my work is that of the stillness found in contemplative places, regardless of subject matter,” Christopher says. In a fast-paced age filled with an endless supply of distractions, Christopher provides viewers with a moment of peace and beauty in his paintings.
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