Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I finished a new painting this past weekend and thought I'd throw a pic up here.

Christopher Reiger
"between meaning and material (h.H.R.)"
Watercolor, gouache, graphite and marker on Arches paper
32 x 32 inches

I'm feeling very good about the Hysterical Transcendentalism series now. An intellectualized consideration of contemporary culture's relationship to Nature has grown into something more immediate and universal. The paintings are just one facet of a larger project now, a perhaps impossible attempt to reclaim lost communicative abilities. The premise of David Abram's important book, "Spell of the Sensuous," resides at the core of this project: "We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human." More specifically:

"The breathing, sensing body draws its sustenance and its very substance from the soils, plants, and elements that surround it; it continually contributes itself, in turn, to the air, to the
cornposting earth, to the nourishment of insects and oak trees and squirrels, ceaselessly spreading out of itself as well as breathing the world into itself, so that it is very difficult to discern, at any moment, precisely where this living body begins and where it ends. Considered phenomenologically - that is, as we actually experience and live it - the body is a creative, shape-shifting last, the possibility of a truly authentic phenomenology, a philosophy which would strive, not to explain the world as if from outside, but to give voice to the world from our experienced situation within it, recalling us to our participation in the here-and-now, rejuvenating our sense of wonder at the fathomless things, events and powers that surround us on every hand."

Abram's book was only recently brought to my attention, but it so articulately argues for a worldview I believe essential that I often read passages rapturously, as deeply religious people read their significant scriptures.

In any case, I feel good about life generally - although I still wish I could live in the country and have access to the city's cultural resources...but who doesn't? - and I'm more confident about my art than I can ever recall being. I'm excited about the studies I have going, some of which I will post on my website soon.


bioephemera said...

See - this is exactly why I said you were a thinking blogger!

Is it the spring that's so inspiring? Because I am actually on the verge of painting a series. I haven't started a series in two years. I haven't started a painting in months. But I can't stop planning . . . I need to make a trip to storage and get some reference materials.

Congrats on the rush of energy - enjoy it!

Chris Rywalt said...

The painting looks great, like a sophisticated Rousseau. I like the way it hovers between abstraction and realism.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Funny you should comment today. This morning in the shower - good thinking time - it occurred to me that it has been a while since I read your blog. I've been rather neglectful of my blog trolling as of late, and yours is one of the few that I regret missing. I'll have to sit down and do some back reading. ;)

I appreciate your labelling me a "thinking blogger." I'm not sure what that is yet (beyond the obvious), but I will read the post/meme and find out.

Spring does get the juices flowing..even for a cold weather guy like myself. Curiously, though, I'm in a bit of trough period, even though the work continues to feel great and develop as I would like. I always seem to dip into the mild doldrums this time of year, even though I find the spring inspiring. Two weeks ago, it was a battle to get out of bed. I fear this has a lot to do with the city/country issue. With spring here, I want to be hiking or otherwise spending time outdoors, away from the horns, the screaming fights and the morning subway shoulder checks.

But I head to Brazil in a couple of months, so I just need to be patient.


Thank you. Indeed, I had Rousseau in mind. The "h.H.R." part of the title is my little nod to the artist, whose curious life and awkward paintings have always appealed to me.

jason said...

Well, the Abram's quote sounds like mystical gibberish to me (sorry), but I absolutely love the new painting. It's wonderful. Funny, when Rywalt mentioned Rousseau all I could think of was J. J. -- I guess I've been reading too much political philosophy lately!

Although I feel like I've always been a step away from really understanding what you're specifically going for in this series, I think my feeling towards these paintings is becoming more precise. What strikes me about them is the combination of saturated colors with images of a jam-packed knot of nature. It always makes me feel a little anxious -- something like the frustration at the inability of the stylings of our popular culture (especially as represented by your color palette and graphic sense) to be able to adequately connect with, or represent, the natural world -- the embodiment of the clash between human civilization and nature (albeit, in your works this clash is somewhat subtle or mild, and never really violent). Or, maybe I'm just projecting.

Oly said...

Chris, are you a fan of Alexis Rockwell, or do you find that too cartoonish/tongue-in-cheek?

I like the depth of the background the best in your work-- it's very complicated.


Oly said...

I'm starting to think on every post I will misquote a name.
Of course I mean Alexis Rockman.



Hungry Hyaena said...


Well, I'm just a mystical fop, I suppose. ;)

I share your distaste for unclear writing ("gibberish," as you say) and, removed from the flow of Abram's writing, that particular selection can seem frivolous...but it's not. I think you'd actually enjoy Abram if you read it as a change of pace, something to skim read when you're on vacation, perhaps? What may seem like mystical mumbo-jumbo in this context is inextricably connected to politics, economics and broad social philosophies. It's a small step from Abram to the Steady-State Economy and sweeping sustainability measures.

I'm glad you like the painting. I think your assessment of the series is sound. That's not all the works deal with - for me, at least - but I'm pleased that your read is a piece of the puzzle. It suggests I'm walking in the right direction, and that's exciting enough.

Sunil said...

It is always refreshing to see a new painting come out from you. Yes, you are right - it does flow into the series that you have planned, but this one is a little different in the sense that you seem to have drawn the viewers attention to the principle animal in this picture whereas normally you would have a diversity of fauna in your paintings. I very much like this painting. The eyes of the leopard (I am assuming) seem to have an intensity that is unmatched and the flora seem to be interlocked so much so that I felt like I looking into the undergrowth of a tropical jungle surrounded by tall trees. The sentiment that went along with the painting is admirable.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Generally, I like Rockman's work. We share similar interests, though, so I'm considerably biased. I don't think he intends his work to be tongue-in-cheek. His paintings and drawings tend to either illustrate possible, often dismal (from the standpoint of biodiversity) futures or celebrate the incredible mess that is biology. At times his paintings can be pedantic, certainly, and I hear a great deal of grumbling from other artists about this, but I'm such a fan of the subject matter that I tend to forgive any overstatement on his part. The ideas are of vital importance to him, clearly, and I feel that shines through. I also think he's improving technically as the years pass.


I'm glad you like this painting. The animal pictured, however, is not a leopard. Although I've traveled and worked in Central America on several occasions, a summer spent in a tent camp on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica brought me within proximity of the jaguar (Panthera onca) and, the smaller cat pictured here, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Many mornings I found ocelot tracks on the beach just outside our tent grounds and I tracked the animals up into the mountain rainforest. They are extremely wary and shy, of course, and this clumsy white man never did confront one.

By contrast, in Botswana, Africa, the lions walked right up to our tent, within a few feet of my frightened face, and leopards jogged full-bellied along bush paths, lit from behind by the headlights of our jeep. The diversity of relationships the various cat species have with humans is dictated, to some extent, by the lay of the land. The rich rainforests of Central America harbor stealthy felines; I've wanted to pay my respects to an ocelot for some time, and I'm glad this painting worked out well enough.

Sunil said...

I would never have guessed that this was an ocelot... Yes, I have read about them but nowhere near the breath of practical experience that you just told us. It is sad that the lions in Africa have lost the suspicion they had of human’s and lope along the safaris right next to you - hinges on an artificial un-natural nature preserved in glass houses. Look forward to seeing more of your paintings... (and any shows in the offing).

Hungry Hyaena said...


Although many lions in Africa have lost their fear of humans - due to increased interaction as human settlement pushes further out from the existing population centers - the pride I dealt with was just curious about the naked animals in their territory (and my father's snoring).

I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of people camping in a part of the Botswana bush that rarely sees many humans, especially of the western variety. My father is a conservation writer, and I've tagged along with him on assignments from time to time. One of these took us to remote parts of Botswana. I consider myself very, very lucky to have made that trip.

At that particular camp, we had a black mamba living in the central baobob tree, scorpions aplenty in the tent, the pride of lions that visited on some nights, matriarchal elephant groups with calves and the always curious, hungry spotted hyenas to keep us company. The circumstances weren't for everyone, but for me, it was a very special time. I hope to get back someday, but painting doesn't often afford one such trips. ;)

Michael said...

This painting seems to have more air than most of the other H.T. paintings that I've seen. It provides a foundation for the freneticism and keeps it from collapsing into homogeneity. I look forward to seeing the work in person some day.
Long a fan of mystical mumbojumbo, I enjoyed the commentary and quote. I have the interesting priveledge of working for two great men, both of whom are devout Catholics. Over the course of hours of weeding, we get into interesting conversations, which have made me realize just how far I have wandered away from my Catholic upbringing. I find it odd that intelligent people can argue that mankind alone is endowed with a soul.
Smells like hubris to me.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Wait...are you suggesting that a soul is universal...that a pig or damned monkey might have one? What about a fish, for Christ's sake?!

What's your f*ckin' address, guy? We're gonna find you and stick you!

Sunil said...

I read an essay this morning by Edward Hoagland: 'Endgame - meditations on a diminishing world' in the June issue of Harpers that made me think of the opinions, paintings and the general theme of your writings here. What is even more coincidental is that the paintings featured in the essay have the soul that your paintings have. Hope to see you at the Alexandre Gallery someday.
Unfortunately I can’t seem to link to the online edition as the Harpers site does not have it in a soft format as yet, but I wanted to let you know…

Hungry Hyaena said...


Thanks for the heads up in regards to Hoagland's latest. As you may know, he's a favorite of mine, and I have read the essay.

The paintings and prints used to illustrate the Hoagland essay are by Neil Welliver, another talented artist who shows at the Alexandre Gallery. While I do not respond to his works as viscerally as I do those of Tom Uttech or Gregory Amenoff, I like them a great deal. Maybe, as you say, I could end up showing at Alexandre one day. It's a nice thought that my work might find a home alongside artworks I so admire.

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