Chris Charteris: Bird Call (2020)
Sculptor Chris Charteris brings together a collection of works drawn from many strands of his practice for Bird Call. They all speak a common language of form and finish, and show the artist’s deep appreciation for the media in which he works. Working in stone, bone, and wood, Charteris uncovers the artworks that lie nascent in the raw materials and refines them until their sculptural potential is fully realised.
Singing Kōhatu shows how a seemingly simple intervention by the artist creates an artwork of elegant complexity. Through the removal of vertical slices, external space enters the sculpture and becomes an integral part of its volume. These precise excisions also cut through - literally - the angled, horizontal veins of quartz that run through the stone, establishing visual tension between the organic geological lines and the exact marks of the sculptor. Form, volume, and mass are all part of a familiar sculptural discourse but in Singing Kōhatu their specific characteristics contribute to a parallel conversation. As its title suggests, the sculpture has a voice and creates sound as objects run across its sliced surfaces. The work draws together the physical aspects of material and shape with those of performance and interaction, operating at multiple conceptual levels.
A fundamental characteristic of Charteris’ practice is that he knows when to let his materials speak for themselves. Spaces Between utilises the pre-existing planes and raw crystalline structure of the stone alongside the artist’s shaping and polishing as the bases for an examination of sculptural space and volume. The work reveals the dense, interlocked interior structure of the material at the same time as it sets up a fractured exterior space. In doing so, we are reminded of the array of forces - geological and human - that have worked upon the stone to bring it to this point.
Whether it is seeing a needle in the curve of a whale bone or perfectly matching water-worn stones for an oversized necklace, Chris Charteris works with a rich understanding of how each piece of raw material is perfect for the sculpture he sees in it. This respect and knowledge resonates from his artworks and draws us to them.