This past September, I was lucky enough to spend a couple weeks in Europe, getting an art inspiration refill. I always feel so lucky to visit Europe and see all the beautiful artwork, history and culture in the cities and taste the delicious foods. The first stop on our trip was Paris, France – the only city on this trip that I had been to before. To be honest, though, I fell in love with Paris all over again and wish we could have stayed longer but the trip was already jam packed with city hopping that it will have to wait till another time.
Paris felt different this time, and it might be just being a bit older and appreciating different aspects of the city, but I felt like I was seeing the city with new eyes. I lived in Paris for almost a year when I was 20, and I can’t help but feel like I was too young to appreciate all of it. Or perhaps I just appreciated different parts of life and Paris then. I’ve been back to the city a couple of times since, but for only a day or two and it was always a bit too rushed. Having five days to see the city this time felt like a luxury!
As with my previous trips, I’m going to do a little photo diary of the trip. So here is part one – Paris and Versailles. Copenhagen and Amsterdam will be the other two instalments.
Happy April! This year is zooming by quickly…much faster than first anticipated! I’m happy to present my 6th installment of Fridays & Friends. This blog feature is quickly turning into a bit of an all girls club, not that there’s anything wrong with that…I can’t help it if I know so many talented and amazing female artists! But never being one to exclude, I’m very happy to introduce you to Christopher Vena. We go way back, and it’s great to feature a fellow oil painter who also is a portrait artist!
So without further ado, the talented Mr. Vena…
Roselina Hung: How did we first meet?
Christopher Vena: We met in Paris while I was studying on exchange at L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 2001. One of our professors introduced me to you and Jessica Gabriel because I didn’t know anybody and my French wasn’t great.
RH: Tell me a bit about yourself…
CV: I was born in Manassas, VA but was raised in the northern suburbs of San Diego, CA. I received a BFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2003 and studied at ENSBA in Paris on exchange in 2001. I completed an artist-in-residency program at Mano y Mente in Tularosa, New Mexico in 2007. I lived in Seattle, WA until 2010, when I moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where I currently reside.
RH: Tell me about your work…
CV: I use oils. I usually paint from photos that I shoot and edit myself of people I know or places that I’ve lived or traveled. Thematically I like to have some sort of psychological investment in the subject but I’m not always sure where it comes from. Stylistically they are realist but not quite photo-realist; I like there to be an element of painterliness to them.
RH: What are you currently working on?
CV: Lately I am shifting back into painting portraits/interiors from the landscapes/exteriors I’d been doing over the last few years. I have a lot of reference photos sitting on my hardrive that I’ve shot over the last few years so I plan on opening them up and messing with them in Photoshop a bit (subtly, I try not to make it obvious). I’m also shooting a lot of reference pics right now so a lot of paintings are still in the planning stages, but I do have a new one that I’ve included in the images for this Q&A (below).
CV: I can karaoke “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath like nobody’s business.
Thank you, Chris! I think perhaps one of these days, we might have to meet up for a karaoke duel. I’ll have to learn some Black Sabbath though. You read it here first, folks. Stay tuned, coming to you via YouTube…sometime in the future.
I must admit, I’ve been pretty lucky over the years with the studios I’ve had. My first ever art studio was in Paris, France, when I was on exchange at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. It was a small partition space in a large studio with high ceilings, and I had a window that looked out over the courtyard with the Seine just behind the gates of the school. While the school experience itself, I’d probably rate 0/10, I was so lucky to have a studio in Paris that was a short walk across the bridge from the Louvre and down the Seine from the Musee d’Orsay. Not bad!
When I came back to Vancouver to finish my bachelors degree at the University of British Columbia, I lucked out again. My name was drawn from a hat, and I was one of two lucky undergraduate students to share a large private studio in the MFA studio building, with the postgrad students. I had so much space compared to what other students in the same program had. I used the space to my full advantage and worked on numerous paintings and sculptures.
When I lived in London, I had a studio in Peckham, which is in South London. At the time, it was a really down and out area, so there was still cheap studio space to be had. Since then, after I moved back to Vancouver, it’s become the new hot spot for artists and galleries in London once things got too expensive in East London. The studio I had was in a business park, in a building filled with African churches. I was on the 4th floor. One side of the studio was all windows and I had the most amazing view…because I was on the top floor, the view encompassed everything from the very West (the Millennium Dome/O2) to the very East (Greenwich) of London’s skyline. On a clear day, it was the best view and reminded me how lucky I was to be in such a vibrant city.
I’ve talked about my Vancouver studios before, so I’ll get to the point of this post. I’ve got an amazing studio in Banff, and I’m so happy! It’s a huge studio space. I’ve started working on my Daphne’s Metamorphosis painting today. Will post photos of that soon, but in the meantime, check out my studio!
I will be taking part in my first live auction coming up next week. I’m very excited as I’ve never had any work in an auction, let alone a live auction, so I’m not sure what to expect! The auction and event will be held at Maynards Fine Art & Antiques in Vancouver, in their beautiful new spacious showroom on Main Street. Maynards was the presenting sponsor for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s summer blockbuster show that has just closed, The Modern Woman.
Maynards auction is titled The Contemporary Woman and will be held on September 22nd, at 5:30pm (live auction starts at 6:15pm).
I will be auctioning three paintings – one portrait and two smaller paintings that will be auctioned as a pair – from my La Melodie de la Nostalgie series. These paintings were originally painted in 2005 for an exhibition titled Location/Locality when I was living in London, UK. The inspiration for the work, however, was my time in Paris, France in 2001. I was already interested in themes of nostalgia, and this series was unique in that it was my interpretation of someone else’s memories, or rather, how I hoped someone else remembered me during those times in Paris. The titles for each work place the event in a time and place and with a song lyric-like title – hence the title for the series, La Melodie de la Nostalgie, which translates into “The Melody of Nostalgia”.
A few of the paintings from this series sold while from the original exhibition, and the ones that are for auction are the ones that traveled back with me to Vancouver. It is hard to see in the photographs, but the paintings are done in both oil and acrylic. The portrait aspect is painted in thin layers of oil, so there is a transparent effect to it. These were meant to be “real” like photographs, whereas the backgrounds, which are the locate the events, were painted in acrylic interference paint. Acrylic interference paint are colourless, transparent paints made from titanium coated mica flakes and from afar they are lost in the background. On closer inspection, however, the colours have a metallic look and shift colour, depending on the viewing angel. The effect is very difficult to photograph, but appears similar to the colours displayed in an oil slick floating on water.
The backgrounds are fantasy like and surreal, floating in and out of view.
This painting, which will be part of the auction, is a self-portrait on the platform of the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Metro station in Paris – the tunnel and train tracks can be made out on the right of the painting with the “METRO” sign at the upper right.
These two paintings, which are being auctioned as a diptych, are a pair and meant to be hung one above the other. These were some of my first examples of pattern work finding their way into my art.
For more information on the auction, please visit the Maynards event listing. All the works will also be open for viewing this Saturday, September 18, at the Maynards showroom.