COVENTRY, Chris

Nationality: Australia
Website: Website
Australian artist
Born in Adelaide 1944
Lives and works in Melbourne

Christopher Coventry likes outlines, silhouettes. It’s not that he dislikes “in-lines” – sometimes he does use them – just that they don’t interest him as much. The outline is sufficiently suggestive and more easily transplanted into a new context than more detailed content. And his interest lies with the transplanted silhouette.

Coventry searches out visual rhythms or echoes. The superimposition of two “echo” images onto each other produces a conjoint image which has implications for the viewer’s future perceptions of each as a separate object.

This artist is a consummate borrower and manipulator of images. He considers artistic licence an absolute, and freely alters borrowed images to suit his purpose, but blinkers his audience into seeing only that which he allows them to see.

Narrative entrapment is a key weapon in Coventry’s arsenal. The bright blocked colours and recognisable characters easily succeed in drawing the viewer into attempting to decipher stories. The stories are at times jocular and self-referential, at other times infinite in possibility; they can even be potentially threatening. All the while, Coventry pulls the strings.

His composition is careful and deliberate, establishing unsettling lines of tension even when the image seems overtly tranquil. Subliminally the heightened colour contributes a sense of impending violence. In a fight or flight reaction, the environment is suddenly brought into focus: objects become sharper in outline, brighter in colour with less noticeable detail. Coventry’s images rarely provoke such a strong response in their own right, but they evoke memories which give rise to a feeling of profound unease.

The world which Coventry presents for our contemplation is one which can only exist within the two dimensional confines of a canvas or piece of paper. It is completely artificial and incapable of realistic independent existence. Every line, every colour points to this, yet somehow the narrative nature of the whole is tinged with realism. Mind games have a sharp edge.