If you were able to get to the shop in-between lockdowns, you would have seen Chris Solcz's art up on our walls. He and our pal, Mateo, worked on a cool feature about his latest series, Construction and Deconstruction, and sat down with Mike to chat a bit about the film and Chris's work.
Hey guys, happy summer.
Mateo: Happy summer Mike! The day-to-day is always up for me - a perfectly timed balance of work, pleasure, music, fun and creativity.
Chris: Hey Mike! I just wrapped up a mural project in Muskoka, now back in the studio knocking out a commission painting and some personal projects.
I saw a photo of the mural. Super cool. Who was it for?
Chris: Thanks! That one was for a client who owns a motor sports exhaust company and is also a race car driver. He wanted a cool backdrop for car photos and basically let me do whatever I wanted. It was eighty-feet long but luckily I had my girlfriend Nicole helping me out!
Nice. So cool edit with this video, Mateo.
Mateo: Glad you enjoyed it. It’s been an enjoyable process from the early days of you and I chit-chatting about these video portraits, to pre-production, to filming/editing and now watching.
Yeah it’s something we’ve been really stoked to do and are grateful that you kickstarted it with Chris. Let’s talk a bit about it. Where did you film?
Mateo: It all started at Chris’ studio, which is such an inspiring place to create and hang. We did some early test shots there and immediately I knew it was going to be perfect. Lots of natural light and every nook and cranny perfectly embodies his work and personality. The intro ‘nature’ shot and mural footage was at Urban Surf. Finally, the cloud shots were filmed at Lakewood Park in St. Clair Beach. Nothing but a sunny afternoon and time to kill.
Cool. Chris, tell me more about your studio.
Chris: My studio, Strange Tempo Studio, is an old detached auto garage behind my house. I believe it was once used by a trucking company.
Ah rad. Do you do most of your work there or go find other places for inspiration?
Chris: Mostly there but I’m always adding and changing things to keep it fresh. If I don’t, things start getting stagnant and I find myself spending less time there. Travelling always gets the inspiration flowing though.
How long have you been painting? Did you go to school or just sorta get into it without any formal training?
Chris: Some of my earliest memories are of painting and making crafts and stuff with my grandma so I’ve always enjoyed creating. I did a very short stint in art school but decided it wasn’t for me. So for the most part I'm self-taught.
And you’ve worked with some brands, right?
Chris: Yeah most recent would be some can designs for a few different beer companies including a cool artist can for Collective Arts. Prior to that I’ve done a couple solo pop-up events with John Varvatos store in Detroit.
What are your thoughts on that, like working with companies and other corporate work?
Chris: It’s definitely something I want to do more of. I think it’s great when brands can see the value in working with artists, though I do think it’s important to stay true to you and not be afraid to say no to opportunity if it doesn’t align with you artistically.
I’m really excited about the RVCA capsule you pulled out for our fall collection. Can’t wait to bring that in.
Chris: Can’t wait either! Clothing is another huge interest of mine that I’ve always dabbled in, RVCA has always been my favourite brand so I was hyped to curate that for the shop.
So let’s move back to the video. I mean, I watched it and it didn't take long to sorta sink into this meditative state. Was that what you were going for?
Mateo: Totally. When I first met with Chris to do some test footage, I immediately realised how his work is heavily inspired/driven by the idea of flow state, meditation, and relaxation. I knew that I needed to reflect this ethos of his work/lifestyle into a visual form.
I was immediately struck at the beginning with Chris behind the tree. Like he's deep in a forest somewhere but then there's this shipping container which is a real juxtaposition.
Mateo: I knew that I wanted the first and last shot to be a ‘portrait’ of Chris. But at the same time, I wanted it to be abstract yet calming, to reference his work. The second shot of the shipping container is pretty much from the view of where Chris was standing during his ‘portrait.’ So in an alternate reality, I guess Chris was watching himself paint that mural all along. Hah!
Love the way things work out. I think there’s this commentary on nature and industry that sort of lingers in the work that we see coming out of this area.
Mateo: I agree and I love it. Nature provides a lot of creative inspiration for me and the idea of industry provides the fuel to keep the engines rolling.
Chris: I think that makes sense with the way Windsor is situated so close to Detroit but also so close to more rural areas. I did a “Nature vs. Technology” installation in Miami in 2019 which I think was definitely influenced by living here. It’s a juxtaposition I want to play more on in the future.
The part when Chris talks about using different mediums and then we see him tearing up the canvas. The sound on that struck me.
Mateo: I knew I wanted a segment with just sound effects and the voice over, to once again hone in on the meditative experience during Chris’ painting process. It’s also a very personal segment to the video, it feels like you are in the room with Chris. I love the canvas tearing scene because it’s almost startling, in contrast to the calming brush strokes and spray sounds on the previous scenes. I love how Chris uses a destructive/constructive outlook on his work.
Chris, the theme of equilibrium returns later in the video when you talk about not really having a direction but always ending with balance. Let’s go a bit deeper into that. I’m interested in your concept-to-finish process.
Chris: Yeah, this is a huge part of my process, especially for my latest abstract series, Construction and Deconstruction. I usually like to start at least two paintings at the same time with absolutely no end vision in mind. Once I like the compositional direction it's going in, I’ll then start tearing up the other canvas and layering it onto the first one. This starts to become almost like a visual dance or conversation where each placement or brush stroke is purely a reaction to the previous. This process goes on until I feel a good balance in colour and composition.
And Mateo, we hit about four minutes into the video and there’s a significant transition. Can you tell me more about some of your ideas with this?
Mateo: That’s exactly what I wanted the shot to do. I wanted the final/credits shot to SNAP the viewer out of this meditative visual experience in the previous scenes, out of the studio, out of the art world, just Chris as Chris. Also if you watch closely, the video starts and ends pretty much with the same scene - an abstract portrait of Chris in nature, signifying the entry and exit of a flow-like-state.
One of the things about the video is how detached it is from so many of the stereotypes of living here: The closeness to nature, the ease at which one escapes into haze and humidity of long summer days by the lake. We get caught up in this urban stereotype when in fact we’re actually quite the opposite.
Mateo: I think you nailed it and I’m happy that we were able to bring that vibe to this video portrait of Chris and his work.
Okay guys, super cool to chat. Looking forward to seeing you at the shop soon.
Mateo: Can’t wait to hang under the oak tree.
Chris: I’m sure you’ll be seeing plenty of us around this summer lol, Cheers!
Mike: I think it's a maple tree but what do I know about nature.