The Abstract Cristian Andersson

cristian_MeBY Lori Palmeri

As you enter the tiny appropriately named, Matchbox Studios, a working studio and gallery, soft soulful jazz plays background to the smell of oil paint permeating the space. Morning sun streams through the storefront windows facing Market Street and Opera Square. The studio may be small, but Cristian’s large impactful works are a dramatic must-see and require contemplation. No window peak will suffice, for this emerging valley artist is destined to be sought after.

Andersson, currently an Appleton resident, chose to rent his studio here, out of appreciation for the uniqueness that is downtown Oshkosh. In an interview, he says, “There just aren’t these small spaces available for studio work in Appleton, I was working in my studio at home and really needed a distraction free environment to process and evolve with my work.”

And the studio name, Matchbox comes from childhood memories of his mother’s collection, “When I was growing up, my mother would collect matchbooks that she kept in a large round tin,” Cristian said. “Every now and then I would open up the container and look at the names and logos imprinted on these small pieces of cardboard. They told my story of growing up in their jumbled mess: the restaurants we visited, the theme parks we played at, the hotels we stayed at. That is how I see a lot of my paintings. If you first look at them you may see them as objects, but they tell a story. A journey. They are my matchbooks as I navigate my world through adulthood.”

While a first impression of the paintings may appear raw and visceral, Andersson’s work is also tender and compassionate upon further study. Note the cardinal figures surrounding he and his girlfriend in a self-portrait, “In Situ,” externalizing the internal intimacy, as they heal from her breast cancer journey in a small room after a double mastectomy. Prints are planned, and a portion of the proceeds will go toward breast cancer research and support. My impression upon absorbing these is that of empowering enlightenment.

Cristian_7293361The process…
“For some time now, I have identified myself as an abstract painter,” Cristian said. “I work layers of oil paint on my canvasses to different degrees: some areas may end up being thickly built up with intense color while others may stay awash of an extremely thin layer of paint. Heavy bold lines and cubistic figurative shapes will tell a story, often autobiographical, about the exact moment when we identify the trials we have gone through, and find the comfort to go forward. This contentment may be found in the arms of a loved one or through self-realization. Whatever the manner, I want my work to tell the story of moving forward towards a better life.”

When asked about his inspiration, Cristian says he was influenced by Cubist’s Picasso and Gris. As he speaks, I am drawn to a smaller work, “Reimagined Jazz”, which Andersson describes as the “Shape of Coltrane” when he began to experiment with paint in reaction to external influences.

Currently, Andersson is actively generating three distinctly different series. One particularly powerful piece is a reaction to recent racial tension themes and is a first “political” piece as he explores external influences to his body of work. Cristian explains his work entitled, “Costly Exchange,” saying “Even though it is extremely specific to the racial tensions that we are facing, and have had for a long time in this country, it asks some bigger questions. What happens when we only talk to people that are on the same side of a cultural divide? It makes the division even more apparent. It causes us to lose an understanding in each other. And that issue is prevalent in so many different areas of life”.

Andersson now begins a collaborative piece, reuniting with his deceased father, who was an architect and designer. The photo shows him studying his father’s blueprints, with Cristian’s work in progress in the background.

Andersson wants to break down the perception that abstract art is inaccessible by inviting people to come in and see his work while he is working. He does not feel disturbed and invites the curious to come explore the work. The gallery is currently open by appointment or if you see him painting, go in! Otherwise he can be found on Facebook as well as reached by phone. 920-791-7137.

For those who are interested in acquiring local original art, his work is extremely accessible and affordable ranging from $175 to $1250.

Cristian recently displayed in three locations in Oshkosh, if you missed it, definitely get to the gallery here, or to see new work at the “Contemporary Views” juried Wisconsin Visual Artists show in Green Bay at the UW Green Bay Lawton Gallery, reception October 8, 4:30 to 6:30 and running through October 29th. His work is also on display at Coventry Glassworks and Gallery in Appleton on College Avenue.

Cristian Andersson is a UW-Green Bay graduate, with a double major in fine arts and graphic design. His focus at the university was in printmaking, supplemented with a number of photography courses. Prior to that he attended Columbia College in Chicago taking extensive painting and performance art courses. Much of his work deals with the concept of the evolution of the self: how life changes are dealt with and interpersonal relationships navigated.

Matchbook Studios, LLC. 219 Market Street, Oshkosh

cristian_In_SituWhat is Cubism?
Cubism was one of the first truly modern movements to emerge in art. It evolved during a period of heroic and rapid innovation between Pablo Picasso and George Braque. The movement has been described as having two stages: ‘Analytic’ Cubism, in which forms seem to be ‘analyzed’ and fragmented; and ‘Synthetic’ Cubism, in which newspaper and other foreign materials such as chair caning and wood veneer, are collaged to the surface of the canvas as ‘synthetic’ signs for depicted objects. The style was significantly developed by Fernand Leger and Juan Gris, but it attracted a host of adherents, both in Paris and abroad, and it would go on to influence the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Willem de Kooning.

Analytic Cubism staged modern art’s most radical break with traditional models of representation. It abandoned perspective, which artists had used to order space since the Renaissance. And it turned away from the realistic modeling of figures and towards a system of representing bodies in space that employed small, tilted planes, set in a shallow space. Over time, Picasso and Braque also moved towards open form – they pierced the bodies of their figures, let the space flow through them, and blended background into foreground. Some historians have argued that its innovations represent a response to the changing experience of space, movement, and time in the modern world.

Cubism paved the way for geometric abstract art by putting an entirely new emphasis on the unity between the depicted scene in a picture, and the surface of the canvas. Its innovations would be taken up by the likes of Piet Mondrian, who continued to explore its use of the grid, its abstract system of signs, and its shallow space.


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