by Sarra Scherb
Published in WEAVE Magazine – Volume 2, May 2014.
Wolfram Productions’ Seattle / Vienna Artist Exchange residency program provides opportunities for artists to work and exhibit in new environments. Artists are given a place to stay, make a body of work, and exhibit it. (For more on Wolfram Productions, see the previous article in Volume 2: Siolo Thompson’s Wild City.)
Seattle-based Chris Sheridan will embark on his Vienna residency in October 2014. WEAVE spoke with Sheridan over the summer as he prepped for his stay in Austria.
WEAVE: Chris Sheridan is a painter who utilizes ancient symbolic language and references mythic characters in his sumptuous oil compositions. He’s lived in Seattle since 2006, and works out of Inscape Arts building in a shared atelier with his fiancee, painter Kate Protage. Is that a good summation, Chris?
Chris Sheridan: Sure. Except that by the time this prints, Kate will be my wife.
WEAVE: Oh, right, congratulations! What else should we mention to bring people up to speed?
CS: I know how to say, “You have a pretty cow” in German.
WEAVE: Because of your upcoming residency?
CS: Sure. We’ll go with that.
WEAVE: How did you become the fourth American participant of the Wolfram Artist Residency?
CS: There’s no application process — I was approached by Siolo Thompson [of Wolfram Productions] when I went to Christian Hegemark-Bazant’s show at the end of his Seattle residency. She asked if I would be interested.
WEAVE: Why do you think she tapped you as a participant?
CS: I think she chose me to see what would happen if she put someone in the mix who doesn’t fit the current trends in Vienna. My process and the figuration in my work is fairly traditional, and based on conversations with Christian and Siolo, it sounds like traditional painting is not the mode of thinking in Vienna right now. They’ve moved away from the canonization of the figure and symbolism, and that’s the heart of what I currently do. This is going to be an interesting, engaging challenge all around. Perhaps rather than one party changing their mind, we can find ways to meet in the middle.
WEAVE: You’re required to produce and exhibit a body of work while you’re there. Have you planned what you’ll do, or will you allow the city to inspire you?
CS: I’ve had to plan it pretty carefully, because I only have 26 days to get there, paint like crazy, and put the show up. My usual process takes a while, so I’m creating charcoal sketches to work from before I leave, rolling them, shipping them over, and then finishing them while I’m there. The tricky thing is that I’m buying all my materials while I’m over there, which could seriously impact my color palette and paint application. And I’m usually a materials snob!
I look forward to seeing how my environment affects and inspires the way that I complete the paintings, though. Based on both the timeline and the art around me, it’s quite possible that I’ll change my style a bit to fit the environment. These paintings may be looser, sketchier, and less modeled…but still polished, of course. But, letting go and losing control is part of the challenge and the appeal: I’ve decided that you just have to smack the bull in the ass and hold on.
WEAVE: What are the themes of the show, as far as you’ve planned them?
CS: Vienna’s a city that has historically been enthralled with symbolism, and symbols of death–statuary, churches, cemeteries–and I wanted to bring that sense into my works. Originally, I planned to photograph statues around the city as a reference, and morph them into the faces of people I know. But, there’s no way to do all that in three weeks, especially if I have delays with shipping, customs, jet-lag or buying materials.
Instead, I’ll be continuing a series I’ve been working on for a year with photographer/designer Amanda Paredes. We’ve been discussing Dante’s Inferno and creating a series of paintings and photographs exploring the psychological act of falling.
We did a photo shoot with a dressmaker and make-up artist that was based on that concept of falling away, moving downwards. I’ve already painted one piece based on it but it’ll take a while to exhaust this theme. It’s fascinating. What I see in Vienna is still going to influence my work down the line, I know, even if it doesn’t immediately inform this exhibit.
WEAVE: What excites you most about the residency?
CS: Honestly, the traveling. I’ve never been out North America, I’ve never really traveled at all. I can’t wait to take an international flight, to run around Europe, and to talk shop with people in a completely different atmosphere.
[Ed. note: At this point Sheridan is beaming like a kid on Christmas morning.]
I’ll also be presenting to a new audience, and actually be there on the ground to hear feedback. I’ve had shows in Europe before, but I’ve never been there to hear the reaction. The amount I can learn is endless, and I feel like I’ve already learned so much — without getting on the plane yet!
WEAVE: What worries you most?
CS: Delivering what’s expected of me. I need to create a show that’s representational of my name and the level of quality I expect of myself. It may not look exactly like my previous work, but it has to be worthy.
Money’s also a huge concern. I not only need to pay for plane tickets, but the cost of shipping the art back and forth, paying customs, and documenting the work. I’ve launched a Kickstarter to fund those costs, and I’m hoping to not have to max out three credit cards just to eat schnitzel.
WEAVE: Anything else?
CS: I also know how to say “Your wife likes everything,” and “He likes all the wives,” in German. I’m not sure what my German-language program thinks I’ll be doing over there.
Editor’s Note: Because we’re posting this article from The Future, you can now see the work that Sheridan created during his residency. Check out the paintings on his site here and here, and info on his collaborative exhibition The Fall with Amanda Paredes and Stone Crow Designs here.
Sheridan’s residency ran October 1-31, 2014. His exhibition at mo.ë art space in Vienna opened Oct. 26. More information at moe-vienna.org
All artwork is courtesy and copyright of Chris Sheridan.