Christopher R. Inwood is a self-taught painter set to display his fourth solo exhibition at The Third Quarter on the July 5-11. He is one of Brisbane’s most promising portrait artists. We sat down with Christopher to discuss art and its origins through a preview of his highly anticipated upcoming exhibition SUPERNORMAL STIMULI.
Cate Meehan will be exhibiting her first collection of works alongside Christopher’s.
Enjoy this exclusive interview with Christopher R. Inwood!
Thank you so much for taking time to share with our readers. Tell us a little about your art?
I watch the world, piecing fragments of the world into ideas. I didn’t know how to communicate the ideas when I was younger. I realized images held much more information than words. So, I taught myself to paint. I am obsessed with it. I think the reason I am is that it allows me to communicate my ideas.
I saw your 2019 entry in the Archibald Prize… why did you enter?
This is a painting of Alec Knight – the first Australian male to make the New York City Ballet. This is what I entered into the Archibald Prize this year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t selected, but it’s an example of the type of work I do – typically it’s realistic portraiture. The painting is called ALEC THE KING and I’ve used the iconography of a halo (which is laser cut out of the painting) to emphasize the ‘kingly’ personalities of people that engage us. To highlight this, I’ve used the most vibrant colors possible to color the background and enhance the visual experience of the painting. These embellishments heighten the mythology of Alec’s brilliant talents and commanding personality, much in the same way as a kings cape and crown does.
The painting of Alec is an example of how I try to communicate ideas through my work. Recently, I have been watching us, and I think I have seen a shimmer of an idea that encompasses people, arts, ideologies, and religions. This is what I’m focusing on in my upcoming exhibition called SUPERNORMAL STIMULI at The Third Quarter Gallery on the 5th of July.
Speaking on your upcoming exhibition, what are SUPERNORMAL STIMULI?
SUPERNORMAL STIMULI is a stimulus that has been enhanced and triggers heightened responses within us. Standard stimulus is present everywhere in our environment and are indicators of prey, predator, and partner, which trigger the appropriate biological responses.
The idea of SUPERNORMAL STIMULI was first observed in animals. Scientists were manipulating the environments of animals to understand their biological responses. In one of their experiments, they tricked tiny songbirds into nesting an egg the size of a basketball – a genuinely absurd sight. It became apparent that the animals responded with heightened enthusiasm and preference to the enhanced stimuli. Some of the paintings in my exhibition depict the absurd imagery created like giant eggs and fake offspring.
These kinds of responses can also be triggered in humans, garnering heightened responses similar to that seen in the animal kingdom. Breast implants, Botox, clothes, and steroids are examples of what we humans do to our own bodies, turning normal stimuli into SUPERNORMAL STIMULI, in order to benefit from the heightened responses they can trigger in others. Most people are aware of these enhancements and their benefits, but it is when they are used in combination that they become extremely effective.
How does this relate to art?
This is where it starts to relate to art. Artists often incorporate enhanced stimuli like supersized elements or extremely vibrant colors to generate heightened responses amongst their audience. Art can be anything; however, not all art triggers these heightened responses. When art triggers these ecstatic states, we consider this to be a transcendent experience, and it is this work that we have typically referred to as fine art or high art.
Yer, music is a great example. Think about the hysteria of The Beatles and the ecstatic states that crowds were frenzied into. This was triggered by a combination of SUPERNORMAL STIMULI – think of the stage shows, the lighting, the electric guitars, the vocal harmonies, the charisma, and the drugs. Fine art, architecture, poetry, theatre, writing, design, and countless other fields also combine multiple SUPERNORMAL STIMULI to receive heightened responses.
Similar strategies are also present in ideologies and religions. Think of the grandeur and ornateness architecture of a church, where the light has been controlled to shine through the stained glass windows into the space you inhabit, and the choirs sing in Godly harmonies. It’s this combination of stimuli that combine to provide a transcendent religious experience.
Essentially, what I think we artists are doing is watching people’s responses to their environment. When we notice a fixation amongst others, we take those elements and try to enhance them in combination with other elements that we’ve observed, in the hope that they trigger transcendent experiences. Sometimes we don’t always hit the mark! But we shift and try to trigger that response again with different supernormal stimuli. These strategies have been used for good or ill throughout history, however, the more you have the ability to focus on and understand these stimuli, the less effect they tend to have on your biological responses. Think of your favorite album as a teenager, and if you listen to it now that magic that you first felt has worn off.
The effect supernormal stimuli have on us is what my upcoming exhibition is about, where I’ve used extremely vivid color to heighten your visual experience, but I’m also trying to visually communicate this idea of SUPERNORMAL STIMULI, and hopefully trigger heightened responses in you!
Christopher R. Inwood Social Media Accounts