Strange, beautiful, captivating, energetic and enchanting; all words which have been used to describe the paintings of upcoming UK artist Chris Rivers. Former professional rock-drummer-turned-artist, Chris began painting four years ago whilst touring the world as drummer with UK rock band Heaven’s Basement. Read on to find out more about him and his work.
You spent around 10 years as a professional drummer, sharing the stage with the likes of Aerosmith, Green Day, Metallica and playing some of the biggest hard rock festivals in the world but it came to end in Nov 2016, what happened? And at what point did you decide to build a career as an artist?
I really fell into painting by accident. Everything at that time was full throttle, I needed something to occupy my mind and free time when I was touring. It started by painting damaged drum-skins and broken cymbals after the show, then selling them at the merch stand after the shows.
I started to become more and more interested in art, I remember specifically we had some days off in Chicago and found the local art store and purchased more materials then spent my days painting in the hotel room. 2016 was the year everything changed for me though; a lot of changes happened in my life, both personally and with the band, so I felt the time was right for me to step away from the music life. I love drumming, sharing the stage with my friends and touring the world but there’s also a lot of baggage that comes with the lifestyle of being in a band, my heart and mind wasn’t in it anymore and at this point I’d also become completely obsessed with painting and everything to do with it. It was clear to me that painting was the path for me to pursue.
You said in a recent interview that you didn’t know how to class your style of art, referring to it as “alternative art”. Your style is very loose, with these fine detailed narratives embedded into the scene, it’s beautiful to view, what do you hope people experience from your works?
Yes alternative art seemed like a title that makes sense to me. I just don’t like the term ‘fine art’! Also, there’s not much ‘fine’ in my painting process, I beat the canvas to death when I’m painting, I paint like I play drums! A lot of my work has a theme of big abstract style backgrounds with small details that tell a story. The constant story throughout my work is innocence contrasted with something much darker. I like that idea that not everything is always what it seems on first look, a lot of my work tells one story from a certain distance but then another story when you get closer.
My actual painting style has become a lot looser recently. I think that’s mainly due to just knowing more about what works for me and being decisive with every brush stroke. I learned what colours work for me, how they mix together and I like to try and use as few brush stokes as possible. I like paintings to look like paintings, not super-smooth and perfect. It’s nice to leave things open to interpretation for the viewer and I want to produce nice looking works of art that people want to hang on their walls. I love colour –the palettes of Rococo and Renaissance era painters – but I also love painters with a much darker palette. I love trying to fuse old techniques and styles with a more current story.
You often work in a ‘Series’, where does the inspiration come from for each new idea?
I think inspiration is just about keeping your eyes open around you and pursuing ideas. I reference back to a lot to things I’ve always had an interest in and things that are personal to me. Children feature a lot in my work which is usually a representation of my twin girls. Other big inspirations for my work comes from Nature, Space, Industry and History. Decay, Struggle and Survival also inspire a lot of my narrative ideas. For example, trying to make a great looking painting based on the idea of something like ‘decay’ , which could be industrial or natural is a good challenge to me. It’s this theme of contrast between light and shade, innocent and dark which inspires me. There’s endless possibilities that can be turned into paintings.
What’s your preferred medium and your mentality when you approach a painting?
I work in oil paint on canvas. I don’t really plan too much about what I’m going to paint, I prefer a much more impulsive and improvised approach, so I like the slow drying time of oil paints, it allows me to work on the painting over a good length of time.
Some of my paintings can take days, weeks or months. Each one is different, trial and error is a big part of my process, taking a risk with the paintings when it reaches a make or break point.
Your work is more and more in demand, which is attracting the interest of galleries and art publishers, how do you feel about this?
It’s flattering to have such a great opportunity come my way but for me I want to be in the driving seat with what I’m doing, I’m developing all the time, I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of what I’m doing. At the moment I’m selling my work directly myself and working with a select number of independent galleries which I’ve built great relationships with, I’m looking to establish a few more but I want to keep what I’m doing simple and develop at my own pace.
I’m painting almost every day at the moment, I’ve got a lot of ideas I’m keen to get started. A lot of my process is based on trial and error so the paintings can take a long time to come together. I’m also working towards the Asian Contemporary Art Fair in Hong Kong in September and Manchester Buy Art Fair.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Still painting every day, simple as that. Painting is the best and biggest escape I’ve ever had, I think it good for your health..(seriously)
Where can people find out more about you?
You can check out all my work at chrisriversart.com or @chrisriversart on any social media.
Chris has swapped drumkit for canvas and stage for studio
The narrative can be found in the detail of Chris Rivers' work
His twin daughters inspire much of his work
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