Off By Christopher Sproat

Artist’s statement p.79, (another photo on p.71)

Gothic Futurism


In looking at the history of culture, my strongest artistic experiences have been of ancient Egyptian and African art.  The Egyptians, with their obsessed preparation for the next life, presented a constant aesthetic attitude, a stolid composure, that is most satisfying in our world of frenetic uncertainty.  The Africans, apart from being the most inventive sculptors, celebrated existence as magical, whereas we focus primarily on monetary concerns.  In these cultures, only the major themes ? life, death and magic ? fuel the art.  Since the popular cultures that surround me, from the conformist middle-class (obsessed with comfort) to the high style designer (obsessed with luxury), have little bearing within this context, I have formulated an alternative culture, parallel to our own, which celebrates the needs of life while indicating the threat of death.

To make this vision of an alternative culture real, it is necessary to equip it with the utilitarian necessities of life while providing a consistent aesthetic vantage point.  The objects are the archeological groundwork; the viewer is left to conjecture about the parallels to our own society, or to see a critical foil.

The development of this culture came about as a result of recent art movements, as well as a need to translate a worldview into a model form.  I advocate art with content or reference.  The environmental approach is an effective way of intensifying the message because the artist can assault the viewer with a number of sensory experiences at the same time.  Even the most popular art form of all, rock music, has added TV to enhance its effect.  In order to accommodate my utilitarian needs as well as my aesthetic notions, the obvious solution was to make my own furniture.  As a result, I have never bought any furniture and don’t own anything I haven’t made.  After making my own, I realized that furniture can be as evocative as the human figure, and that its existence suggests an absence of being.

From the body of utilitarian furniture, a new body of furniture arose with the purpose of veering into the territory of art.  At this point one short note that the critical division for me between art and design is that design aims at solving the functional problem by a clever manipulation of material and fabrication procedures, aimed for the mass marketplace.  Art concerns itself with the evocative aspects of the object; considerations for its function and marketability are subservient to the aesthetic principle.

The existential artists may have lost their audience as far as any mystic involvement is concerned, but through beauty, some of that magical thrill may be touched.  There is a theme for art to address, and it must go beyond the frivolous, clever and entertaining.