When initially confronted with Colin Christian’s work, the first thing that comes to mind is the yummy Amazonian sculptures he’s probably best known for. 9-foot tall leggy portraits with supermodel or anime-inspired physiques, funky candy colors, and a 60s-pop aesthetic. But Colin’s work also takes a darker twist.
In addition to the Jane Fonda-esque babes, there is also a darker, sexier side to his three-dimensional work as well, influenced by H. R. Giger, science fiction, the leather and bondage cultures, and other more carnal pleasures.
I’ve been a fan of Colin’s work since I first discovered it in a San Francisco gallery, but one of his newest series of art has just blown our dark little minds away. Entitled Trypophobia (the pathological fear of objects with irregular patterns of holes), this artwork can only be described as something out of a science fiction nightmare – teeth growing out of odd body parts like a vestigial twin attempting to escape its host and puckered gaping wounds with bloodsucking worms are just a sampling of the delicious artwork he has in this series. Viewer beware, this work will make you feel itchy or like your skin is crawling – and it’s absolutely fabulous. The combined allure and repulsion is just a fantastic juxtaposition of emotions, and I can’t wait to see what he produces next.
Dirge: I am just in love with your newest series of work – the extra teeth, spider legs, and other visceral elements. Could you tell us bit about your newest series of work and your thoughts behind its subject matter?
Colin: I’ve always found the mouth to be the sexiest physical part of a woman. It goes back to reading Fantastic Four comics back in the early 70s; there was something about the way Jack Kirby drew Sue Storm’s mouth, a high upper lip with a slight overbite. I think it hardwired my brain and I still find myself 40 years later trying to exorcise the image, trying to capture the magic. I have always enjoyed making teeth, and after last year’s Trypophobia series, which featured teeth prominently, I felt like exploring further and wanted to see what I would come up with, so the Lipsex series was born. With just the mouth I could explore lots of visually appealing ideas. Pa painting was always my favorite part of the process, so I get to do a lot of that quicker than when I produced figures, which can take months before you get to paint.
Can you tell us more about your background, and what made you become an artist?
I was born in London in the swinging 60s, moved to the US in ’93 to pursue art as it wasn’t a viable career choice in the UK back then. My mother tells me I was in hospital when I was very young, sleep problems, anxiety, and the doctor told her back then it was probably due to an overactive imagination, and he suspected I would be an artist. Weird! As soon as I got my hands on Plasticene on my 9th birthday, that was it; I see things in 3D, not flat, so I started sculpting and never stopped. It’s a compulsion, to communicate really.
Who/what are your biggest influences? Where are you finding ideas for your work?
Movies, nature, fashion, women. The movies Barbarella and Alien really got me wanting to follow art as a career. I was a club DJ from 82-92, playing goth, punk, metal, and electronic music; that was as close to art as I could get. Music still is really influential to me; the writing of H.P. Lovecraft; the artist H.R. Giger (who I was lucky enough to meet, my art hero!); the work of Alexander McQueen; avant garde fashion and the whole fetish scene; models of every kind; and of course, David Attenborough documentaries. He is the greatest man that has ever lived, and he is British!
What’s the most indispensable item(s) in your studio that helps you produce art?
My iPod and my Dremel tool!
That’s amazing that you got to meet H. R. Giger – he’s definitely been an inspiration to a lot of current artists! What was the experience like, and how did it change your life and your art?
It wasn’t just Giger. I have been a fan of Blondie since I was a horny teen, I knew very well that Debbie Harry and Giger were good friends, they had worked together on Koo Koo.
I met him at Fuse Gallery in New York; I had shown there and he had a small show so I traveled up from Florida just to be there and meet my art hero. I’m normally an outgoing chatty guy, but frankly, meeting him left me speechless: this was the man who single-handedly kickstarted the idea of art as a serious career to me. How could I tell him that?
So I shook his hand, and told him he had inspired me, and left it at that. He was very warm and friendly, not the dark brooding figure you would imagine; he seemed to be having a good time meeting fans. I wish I could have really talked at length with him, but I was just grateful to have met the man who changed my life. I suspect I’m not alone.
Did you go to school to learn your art? What are your feelings on formally educated vs self-taught artists?
I left school at 15, I hated school – I wanted to get out into the world! I failed most of my exams, but in the intervening years I have taught myself a great deal, everything from biology and zoology to hardcore physics, quantum theory, and ancient history. I would consider myself somewhat intelligent, with a genuine passion for knowledge and understanding, especially for the natural world and its workings. My feelings on self-taught or formally educated do not matter. It’s those in charge of art – critics, academics, curators, galleries… and for the most part, they think self-taught is nothing more than prison art, so of course I despise the lot of them.
Sculpture as a medium can involve a plethora of different steps to achieve the end product. Could you describe your typical work flow when you start to create a new piece of art?
I usually have inspiration in an instant: it can be triggered by a news event, a movie, a dream or a piece of music or writing, but the idea forms very quickly, and at that point I immerse myself in a comfort zone of creativity. I put on my favorite movies, get a pile of coffee table art books from my library, fashion magazines, have a gin and tonic and bash it out in my brain until it’s solid.
How has your art/style changed since you first started?
At first I was very influenced by anime and Giger, the work reflected that clearly, but eventually I developed my own style. It took some time, but I knew it was important, so I brought in other visual cues: fetishism, 60s mod art and fashion, science fiction, custom car culture and H.P. Lovecraft. Somehow it all fits together to make something uniquely mine.
What was the most powerful work of art you recall viewing? Where was it? How did it make you feel?
Two pieces spring to mind, both of them movies. I saw Alien on its release in ’79, and its effect was profound; I couldn’t get it out of my head for years. All I knew is I wanted to be part of that, whatever “that” was, the textures and ideas Ridley Scott presented I found deeply inspiring.
It wasn’t just Giger’s involvement; I also loved the Nostromo, the way the white interiors looked, the crew costumes, all of it left me in a daze. It was like a painting and sculpture combined. It’s art, not just a movie.
The second was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, which remains my favorite piece of art, ever. Visually, it is the counterpoint to Alien: clean, white, pop, graphic; it’s language I use every day in my work, forever present in everything I do. Watching it is somewhat of a religious or spiritual experience for me; it installs a deep calm, I find myself looking both outward and inward after a viewing. Sounds weird I know, but it is what it is: I’m more moved by that movie than by any other piece of art in history.
Do you have a dream project you’ve always wanted to work on, whether it’s collaborating with another artist, or something you’ve always wanted to do?
I have been planning two large-scale figures for years. One of them, The Dunwich Whore, is a sequel of sorts to an early piece, The Callgirl of Cthulhu. It would be 9′ tall, have a sexy woman/goat head, bizarre dinosaur legs, eyes on the hips, tentacles coming from the stomach, and a serpentine tail with a single large mouth on the end of it.
The second is a 10′ tall bunny girl, very sexy, disco dancing, covered in white fur, but her chest, crotch and ass uncovered, done in soft pink realistic silicone, anatomically correct, holding in her hand a very large dirty carrot.
I’m also planning some small, affordable work, and all profits will go to help pangolins, the world’s most poached mammal. I despise all poachers and anyone who even touches rhino horn and elephant ivory, well, I think execution is too good for them. So I want to help in the only way I can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be true to yourself. You can’t fake passion, it’s so important to realize who you are and what you stand for and believe. Your work should reflect that.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future (artistically or otherwise)?
To inspire others as Giger did to me; to pass on what I have learned to those who deserve the information. Far too many want easy answers to complicated questions and are unwilling to work through trial and error to get results. And their reasons for this are disturbing, not for creativity, but for money. I think something is getting lost, so I want to try to help those who are willing to work. As you get older, it becomes clear what is important in life: to love and be loved, to create and leave your mark, to pass on what you have learned to the next generation.