Chris Wilson, Dwelling Place, The Oriel Gallery, Antrim Castle Gardens, 28 January – 5th March 2016

Wilson Chris untitled 1985029

Untitled, 1985, Map and conte on panel

Belfast street map, standardised small houses (he made those as metal objects/ sculptures earlier) black abstraction – those are three stable characteristics of Wilson’s early work. The transformatory power of what is legible and what is erased forges a metamorphosis: the houses became church furniture, the street map evokes patterned stone floor leading the main altar (not visible) , the vaults turn into a steep roof of a pointed spire. But first there is the black void in the centre, easily understood simile for the troubled society. Turning the visual thought – although the black conte used is the same, imposing similarities on all the voids, its spatial messages are not uniform. On both sides of the white outline – my eye reads some black as receding, some as pushing forward in front of the organic, uneven middle which contains the street map. The shapes in the middle are not geometric, right angled, instead they are voluminous like a human heart during an open heart surgery, or lungs on an x-ray image. A life moment between two beats, losing its identity to a grotesque black diagram cutting into the narrow part of the spire. Both in and out – that space is deprived of its orientation. In contrast to the lower part composed in the one point perspective, the top prefers to turn into a question. The image becomes visually unsettling and busy – oscillating between meanings, each equally insecure, but still fleetingly commanding attention. Religion divides and religion offers support – it is a tool how to control many by the few, successfully promising eternity, but failing to cope with the earth bounded conflicts. The obedient rows of houses determine the forbidding access both into the homes and exits into the streets. they are no doors or windows. The houses adopt the street map as their walls and gables both insisting to be real part of the city, and a small model becoming an empty toy. In all, the image fragments itself into oscillating visual substories, whose tenor is abandoned world, empty streets, broken faith.

Silent world. Yet, the contrasts of light and dark, of closed forms hiding space, introduces a pulse – as if recovering from a nightmare.


Chris Wilson , break-in-the-clouds-2012-58-5-x-58-5-cm

Chris Wilson , Break in the clouds, 2012,58-5-x-58-5-cm


I first saw Wilson’s new type of work at the Mullan Gallery some time after his residency at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland during the summer 2002. The majority of paintings since then shares the subject and style. The small “closed”, blind houses, fairly inaccessible, or accessible to some chosen people only, speak of enclosure, this time in rural landscape. The symbolic role of the spire in the earlier work – turns the sharp angled black shapes into cracks, as if in the frozen ground, issuing strong uncertainty. In situ, the eye reads little details, like the edges reminiscent of torn paper, a motive sometimes strengthened by folding a corner forward…

Wilson Chris carrach II (c)

Carach II, 2015

or by juxtaposition of recognisable sheets of paper or cloth…

Wilson Chris Some Day You

Some day you will be one of those who lived long ago, 2009


The paintings register time directly when Wilson modulates the greys in seemingly endless shades with undeniable conviction of certainty.

Night Drawn Darkness

Night drawn darkness, 20a4


The viewer is persuaded to read abstraction as having defined power of description and spatial co-ordinates. It is not an endless universe – it is this landscape around you – even when you see those are thin sheets of matter light as a golden leaf – easily pierced, thus vulnerable. The careful brushwork paints respect for the landscape whether observed or imagined. And, yes, there are dreamy elements lodged between the shades of grey. This small acrylic was not exhibited at this time.


Chris Wilson, Winter, Acrylic on canvas, 18x18cm

Winter, Acrylic on canvas, 18x18cm

Wilson Chris Displacement II

Displacement II, 2016

This one was there. Easily, the eye engages with the characteristics of Wilson’s post- newfoundland style. Here, perhaps more robustly and openly presented. It offers numerous simple yet poetic passages, for the eye to cherish and the mind to enrich itself with – like a set of sonnets.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.