Chris Down

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dust before the autumn

“I recall that, after most of the elms in the area had succumbed, its countless, somewhat asymmetrical, finely serrated leaves would sway in the breeze as if a scourge which had obliterated its entire kind would pass it by without a trace; and I also recall that a bare fortnight later all these apparently invincible leaves were brown and curled up, and dust before the autumn came.”
(W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn)


My artistic practice is embedded in my everyday life, and trying to understand that life is the motivation for the practice. I pursue my work with the hope that it will reveal something to me about the way I am in the world. It is also a method of trying to understand the world as the ground against which my life unfolds. Autobiography is not the concern, but rather, a consideration of the ways in which the specifics of my existence might function metaphorically to open on to more commonly shared aspects of lived experience.

For the past several years I have been using landscape imagery in my paintings in order to evoke the ways in which life is rooted in the material world. Since moving to Sackville, New Brunswick in 2007, I have been producing photographic source material of the landscape in various places around Atlantic Canada, and more recently, within a half hour’s walk of my home. This process of image collection began as a way of trying to understand a new environment, and represents a shift from using found images, deriving from mass media culture, to a more personal relationship with immediate surroundings.

In the ongoing body of work, dust before the autumn, I am trying to balance the references inherent in the imagery with the physical presence of the paintings themselves, in order to produce a third term that resonates both emotionally and intellectually with the beholder. I am seeking a certain sense of congruence with the world in terms of feeling, rather than objective appearances.

This work is an attempt to understand the contingency and vulnerability of my existence. It has been made with the realization that everything crumbles, breaks down, dissolves, and that the brief moments of pleasure and contentment give way and recede. Not all at once in a dramatic, sweeping action, but bit by bit, scraping and grinding down until only the debris of life remains. The paintings are suffused with imagery of growth and decay, accumulation and erosion. They are also paintings of small things, routine places and minor moments, a way of meeting the implacable enmity of the world with a precarious sort of radiance.



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