“I remove all the imperfections”: Christopher Hartmann on his artificial and figurative practice
The painter’s generic, unblemished figures are a direct reference to all that we’ve experienced over the last year.
- Ayla Angelos
- 1 October 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
There’s something incredibly empathetic about the topics that Christopher Hartmann chooses to address in his work. For example, the London-based painter tends to focus on the “complex relationships shaped by alienation, intimacy and emotional attachment or detachment”, he tells It’s Nice That. “I’m interested in portraying the complexity, contradictions and ambiguity of relationships that oscillate between tenderness, distance and eroticism.”
Allusive, artificial and impressively figurative, Christopher has long been painting the human form and all of the raw emotion that comes with it. Perhaps, but not wholly, this chosen subject matter is a direct result of his upbringing. Having grown up in Southern Germany in a town called Bamberg with his mother – who’s from Costa Rica – and his German father, Christopher has two nationalities and can relate to both cultures. After school, he moved to Barcelona before moving to London to study design at Central Saint Martins, later enrolling at Goldsmiths for his MFA in fine art. “I grew up drawing a lot,” he says, pointing right back to the age of three as the moment he’d first picked up a pencil. “My mother used to draw and that has probably influenced me. Like her, I’ve always been drawn to the human figure. She has cupboards full of drawings of when I was a child.”
Christopher also spent a healthy dose of his teenage years attending art class post-school, during which he’d learn the ropes of drawing and painting techniques, completely ravelling himself in the art form and learning everything he possible could. “Painting and drawing have always been a natural part of my life,” he continues. “I couldn’t say what it was in particular that attracted me to it from such an early age; I suppose the same way other people grow up with an interest in dancing, sports or music, I grew up drawing and painting.”
With this inherent need to learn comes great skill and technique – something that Christopher has spent the last few years mastering to the greatest degree. This is equally matched with a perfected subject matter, one that evolves around the depiction of non-places, subjects “inward looking”, plus a clean, bright and tonal colour palette and figurative (or unrealistic) replicas of the human body. “The figures I depict in my work have an artificial, digital character that makes reference to digital imagery,” he says, citing “otherness” and “artificialness” as key drivers to the development of his work. In this sense, his figures take form of a “slightly bigger than life size” person, with flesh that appears to be completely smooth and blemish-free. “I remove all the imperfections that would make the figure look real,” he says, solidifying his practice as one that thrives on hyperrealism.
“The details are deliberately bleached out, making these bodies generic and repetitive – similar to social media filters or mainstream contemporary uniform,” says Christopher. The bright and impeccably lit colours are also symbolic of the modern age of the internet, whereby his chosen colour palette has been used to specifically mimic the brightness of a screen. A comment on our technology driven world, his figures’ skin, the grass and sky have all been purposefully oversaturated for reasons that make them strangely unfamiliar.
This eeriness is an element that bellows throughout his work, where isolation and vulnerability are placed at the core of each of his subjects’ expressions. Very much a direct interpretation of the time that we’re living in – i.e. an era of lockdowns and isolation from those around us – the work he’s been creating recently has had a very direct impact from as such. Having to work from home has meant that Christopher has had to go smaller in scale, but he’s made sure to keep his figures bigger than life size through cropping and zooming in on the images. The result is intimacy: “I was quite inspired by the idea of how we experience intimacy during the lockdown.”
Christopher continues to cite two of his recent, favoured pieces that he made last year; one being a diptych called A touch that is longing, a touch that is distant, and one called The touch of your hand speaks of distance. Just as the titles suggest, the two paintings draw a painterly lens onto the act of touch between the figures, “that oscillates between tenderness, distance and rejection.” In the current state of the world, there’s something universal and approachable in each of his paintings; Christopher’s work is evocative of a changing time, and his response is emotional, delicate and incredibly agile at that.
Christopher Hartmann: Untitled. Oil on linen, 200x160cm, 2020. (Copyright © Christopher Hartmann 2020)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.