I’m finally getting ahead with my interview series. This time I’m having a conversation
with the American artist Christopher Mudgett, talking about his work, the meaning of black/white, cubism, the art market, future projects and more.
Christopher Mudgett is a young, LA-based artist, known for his bold yet simplistic
monochromatic artworks, including oil paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Since 2012, Mudgett has exhibited in numerous art galleries and art fairs across the
US. Most recently his work has been shown at LA Art Show and Art Basel Miami in 2016.
Atelier Judith: Dear Christopher, you are artistically active since 2011. How did you
get into the art world and where did you first encounter art? Was there a specific
moment that motivated you to start painting?
Christopher Mudgett: I’ve always had artistic inclinations (I was making drawings since early childhood) however, it wasn’t until 2011 that I began my career as a visual artist. After 15 years in the music industry, and suffering a life changing event (my mother passed suddenly), I needed a more direct mode of expression, and for me it was through painting. I remember as though it was yesterday when I made the leap from music to painting. I was in NYC with a friend and I came across some art that was very simple in nature yet very effective in it’s ability to communicate it’s intent. That was when I realized that I could use painting as a means to express what I was feeling inside. This excited me greatly. So much so that, when I returned to Los Angeles a week later, I began painting everyday and I have continued with this passion all these years later, never looking back.
AJ: Which role does the monochromatic play in your artistic production? Could you
explain your philosophy behind this trademark of yours?
CM: For me, black and white is a metaphor for the human experience. These two colors are on opposite ends of the spectrum, so for me they represent the duality experienced in life, the struggle within us all. The constant pulling in both directions, the battle between good/evil, night/day, love/hate, sad/happy etc. that we all face indefinitely. I am fascinated by these extremes as well as the gray area in between. Without one, you cannot fully recognize the other. It is only by contrast, that one can experience each emotion/sensation for what it truly is.
AJ: Your artistic style might often get associated with the Cubist movement, especially in consideration of Pablo Picasso’s oeuvre. To which extent have Picasso and other Cubist artists influenced your work? How have you been able to develop
your own artistic “handwriting”?
CM: Cubism was the biggest discovery in visual art since the invention of perspective. When I use “cubistic methods” in my work, I don’t think, “oh let me make a painting like Picasso”, but more so “here is a tool that I can use to express what is inside me, the truths I aim to communicate with my painting.” In the same way I have also used all the other discoveries handed down to me through art history. The purpose of art is to contribute to the dialogue, expand the consciousness of the world/viewer and to do so in a way unique to you as an artist. That is all I have done since I began on this journey. I only know to be myself. What I find interesting is the publics need to compare and categorize everything. Even Picasso in his day was dubbed “The new Ingres” or “Little Goya”, to which he expressed much disdain. I understand that the intent is to compliment, however, to true artists there is no worse insult. One cannot escape influence but, as a creator, what is most important is to have a unique, individualized voice and to be recognized for it.
AJ: Which museum(s) do you prefer visiting and where else do you get inspired for your own work?
CM: When I travel, I love to visit as many museums as time will allow. Some favorites are the ones in Paris or NYC. LA has some great museums too. It’s fun to see the works of the past; however, most of my inspiration comes from my day-to-day. My work is about figuring out what to make of this thing called life. I can only paint what I know, and I can only live one day at a time.
AJ: Could you reveal any recommendations for young artists entering the art world and not being successful yet? What are the difficulties of beginning an artist career and how do you think is the global art market reacting to new artists?
CM: I believe that success is relative. It’s more about you as an individual, than the status quo. My achievements may be viewed by some as major successes, where as, I feel I’m just getting started. It really depends on what your idea of “success” is, and where you are on that journey. For me, making art has never been about reaching a desired destination but rather staying the course, everyday, and being honest with myself and never settling for anything less than the excellence I know I am capable of. Too many young artists want the accolades that come with a long, fruitful career yet don’t want to take the steps needed to get there. Be patient and do the work. Being an artist is the result of continuous practice and production, it is what you become and therefore who you are. As for the global art market, to me it seems a bit short-sighted. It’s focus tends to lean more toward the trends and monetary gains to be made from those trends and away from the actual merit of an artist. Occasionally the two intersect, unfortunately this isn’t always the case. I think that success for an artist comes after years of continuously creating unique, meaningful and innovative work. Time is the judge, and usually the art market is too close in proximity to the artists of it’s time to see the value in them until many years later.
AJ: You are selling your art online along with the providing of a professional collector’s advice. What are the advantages of this innovative sales strategy? Do you think the manner of collecting will change in the next few years?
CM: Technology has changed the way many artists conduct their business. New doors are open now for those that want to build real relationships with their audience. Social media has greatly increased the visibility of my work as well as has made it possible for me to step outside the traditional system and create a sustaining career. An artist no longer has to rely on galleries, critics, museums or anyone other than themselves to build the foundations of a successful career. All that is required is a true passion and love for ones craft, the initiative to share the work publicly and the hard work necessary to get that work in front of as many people as possible. There really are no limitations, it’s just a matter of how much you want and how far you want to go. My aim is to provide my clients & collectors the most comprehensive art experience possible, including any necessary information I can provide that may facilitate their experience, so they may make the most of it.
AJ: Are you also collecting art for yourself? If yes, who is your current favorite artist and why?
CM: I began collecting art around the same time I began creating it. It was a way for me to support fellow artists as well as a way to keep inspirational reminders in my home/studio of what it was I wanted to achieve in my own art practice. Nowadays, I am so consumed by my own work that unfortunately I give little attention to anything else. but in the beginning it was quite important to have art on my walls. Art collecting has always been a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
AJ: Which galleries are currently showing your works? Would you like to mention any exciting projects that are coming up in the near future?
CM: Relationships are very important to me, and none more so than the ones I have with my patrons. We share a common ideology, we connect via the work and I usually find that we also have a lot in common personally. When someone acquires my work, it feels as though they are joining the “family”. After 5 years of showing in gallery/art fair settings, I decided that it was time to venture out on my own in order to provide my clients a more enriching and exclusive art collecting experience. This kind of openness between artist and collector isn’t something that is encouraged within the gallery system. And for that reason, I decided to build my own. I have some interesting things coming in the next year: pop-up exhibits in Europe, my first book (a retrospective) and limited edition prints and merchandise which will be available via my online gallery and at upcoming shows.
Many thanks for the interesting art talk!
Image courtesy of Christopher Mudgett. ©