//Interview with Chris Lawrence

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Chris Lawrence. I am a multidisciplinary artist based in Philadelphia in the US. Currently I am a resident at Al Riwaq Art space in Bahrain, where I’ve been working for about a month. My artistic practice is located at an intersection of interests in sculpture, installation, architecture, drawing, design, fabrication and printmaking. Often taking the form of built environments or sites, my work typically utilizes a range of materials (steel, wood, glass, MDF, neon, plexiglas, organic matter) and incorporates various methods of production (woodworking, welding, painting, furniture joinery, mold-making, digital design, electronics, photography, laser engraving). While this work involves a great deal of planning and many logistical concerns, much is left purposefully unresolved until work begins on-site so that this process remains responsive to where the idiosyncrasies of a specific place may lead.

So does it worry you when you don’t focus on a specific field? You do a little bit of everything.

Not focusing on a specific field is actually what drives my work as an artist. I feel completely open to explore many fields, materials or modes of production under the umbrella of “art,” so it’s actually quite liberating if I think about it on these terms. I’ve worked in front of computers doing design work as a full time  job before. I am certain I don’t want to focus solely on that ever. As an artist I feel excited that my tools include a laptop AND a hatchet, and that my palette continues to grow and includes not only traditional “art” materials but almost anything else that I may take an interest in. I think that where the notion of focus comes in, is in having and making enough time to follow through on these interests so that I learn something in the process.

What themes do you pursue?

There aren’t any explicit themes that I pursue. I do set out to make work intuitively and also in response to the spaces it occupies in some way. New work usually has some connections to past work one way or another, if only because it’s being fed by my specific personal interests and influences. I never define a theme or a concrete “meaning.” I find it more interesting to leave a set of clues, so that an interpretation of a given work is as anchored to the experience of a potential viewer as it is on my experience making it.

Has Bahrain inspired you?

I’ve had such a fantastic time in Bahrain. The weather, sky, people, desert, architecture, commercial signage, vehicles are all infinitely fascinating. Doing a project here forced me to think on my feet and work intuitively in new ways so I imagine that all of this will surface somehow in my future work. For my project for Alwan 338, I collaborated with a tailor in Manama Souq  to make a series of textile works which are now placed mainly on rooftops throughout Adliya. Having done this, I now can see a place for these materials and this type of collaboration within the context of future works and larger installations. I’ve already begun work on a new pieces here. I’m also quite looking forward to returning to Bahrain in the future  and exploring more of the Gulf region as well.

What was the last residency you were on?

The last artist residency I did abroad was in Melbourne, Australia at an artist run space called Seventh. I was there for a month working on a solo exhibition that opened during the final week of my time there. It was a huge learning experience for working outside my comfort zones and in an intuitive mode. It was a very important period in the development of my practice as it exists today because of this. After that I participated in a residency at home in Philadelphia with AirSpace, where artists are awarded a studio for one year and work on an exhibition for the gallery space and various community oriented projects.

What are some new works you have lined up?

I have two exhibitions to work toward when I return home. Both in the same month in different parts of the US. Should be an interesting challenge to figure out the logistics…

What was the worst and best advice you have ever received?

I’m not certain I have a “worst advice” scenario… Probably something about staying at a job that I really didn’t like. As far as best advice, I’m not sure there is one single thing I’d narrow it down to, but I think for life advice in general, I’d have to say that my mother’s supportive perspective on what I do has been essential to my pursuits as an artist throughout my life. She always (all-be-it reluctantly sometimes) encourages me to take the risks I need to take and seize the time I have. She has always told me to do and see and experience as much as I can while I have opportunities to do so. Having had her encouraging voice in my life since the time I could hold a crayon, leads me to opportunities like the one here at Al Riwaq and beyond.

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