Faces are expressive waters, often smooth, regularly choppy, sometimes broken, sometimes wet.
They are oceans we cross and fall into, perhaps even reject with fear or envy. They are the most human canvas that we paint each day, with makeup or a mask, and have been the focus for Ghanaian-British artist Christian Hiadzi’s exploration of that fascinating complexity.
Informed though not bound by his professional training as an architect, Hiadzi’s art uses acrylic and oil on canvas, board and paper to create his portraits of structured chaos. A palette knife heavily applied to the surfaces covers and reveals layers of paint. Often digging into familiar archetypes, he sees himself as “the vehicle through which the imagination of the viewer is pushed beyond the obvious, whose aim is to demonstrate against the status quo of society, and reject the mundane and rebel against archetypes within a contemporary world”.
Hiadzi has participated in group exhibitions in London, with selected shows at Leyden Gallery (2017); Cylinder Gallery (2017); Candid Art Gallery (2009); and the Mile of Art exhibition (2005). He has been featured in Afropunk, ART Habens, and Brogue Magazine. Looking at how he works the canvas to depict the interior lives of humans, Trebuchet wanted to know more about his passions and process.
“I started making art when I was as little as eight years old. I would scribble, draw, paint and sculpt using plywood. I have always enjoyed making things, and I think from that early age, I derived a great deal of satisfaction from seeing a product made with my own hands.
“My inspirations? Well, to name a few, Turner, Francis Bacon, and Anselm Kiefer. I am also greatly inspired by music and fashion designers such as the late Alexander McQueen. Generally speaking, my source of inspiration is vast. It can depend on a moment, my mood, and my surroundings.
“Each of my paintings begin as an idea; this could be a person I know or may have interacted with, a found image, or it could also just be an imaginary person in my subconscious mind.
“The intention is never to paint the obvious, but explore emotions through the play of colour and texture. The interesting thing here is that, the moment the paint hits the canvas, I am never certain of the end product, which is achieved through a series of accidents. I describe it like a journey, although I have no idea how to get there. The fuel or the driver for this journey is emotions and imagination.
“For each painting I usually map out the basic outlines on whatever surface I am working on, and this helps to define the working area. The intention is never to reproduce the likeness of a person or photograph, but rather, to try and capture any emotions through the abstractions of the play of colours. It is very much process-led, and I never know what the end product is going to be until a very late stage.
“It is that I am more and more convinced that, the mix of figurative and abstraction ways I paint the human face, is a window to what lies beyond the surface. An attempt to connect with the soul. Also that without feeling emotions, I can’t be a painter. I can’t stress enough the role of emotion in my work. It is indeed the underpinning core of my work. Each piece of work I produce is imbued with emotions from the beginning. Without emotion, I couldn’t create these works. It is the driving force that binds and delivers the magic in the work, and what keeps me going as an artist.
“I don’t think I have one work that I could classify as my most successful. This is probably because I engage with each artwork in a unique way, and therefore experience different emotions and dialogues from each painting, which can’t be quantified.
“I enjoy every reaction and comment about my work. There is no such thing as negative comment. The fact that a viewer feels an emotion seeing my work, worthy of them reacting and commenting, is enough for me. Some of the adjectives commonly associated with my work are: unique, evocative, engaging, dark, haunting, scary… etc. Probably one of my favourite comments so far is along the lines of: ‘your work is scary, but for some reason, I can’t stop looking at it’.
“No interpretation of my work surprises me, as I always leave it entirely to the viewer to see what they want to see. Perhaps for this reason, I am always open to any interpretation of my work. My paintings are not an end in themselves, but rather, a means to an end. The viewer, by engaging with the work, goes on a journey of discovery, where they see and connect with it in their own unique way.
“What’s next? My current project Human Stories is pretty broad and can incorporate other styles of painting alongside my abstract and figurative portraiture. I shall attempt to further explore this field and also work on larger surfaces, producing compositional works. Watch this space.”
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle