Medeya: Hello Chris! Could you introduce the artist Chris Klein to our readers?
Chris Klein: Hello, I was born in England, in the suburbs just north of London.
For most of my early life, my success as an artist has been intermittent, but I also found work as a scenic artist for theatre and film.
In 1999, I moved to Quebec, marrying my wife who is from Montreal, and continued my career as a scenic artist for films and theatre. Moving to a new continent, it felt like I was starting over again as an artist. But slowly I started to get recognition by galleries over here and now I’ve got representation by galleries in Montreal and Toronto, as well as in Europe.
Medeya: Can you tell us more about the professional and artistic path that has made you and artist?
Chris Klein: I consider I’ve always been an artist, I loved to draw before I can remember. I came from an artistic family, but none of us were artists by profession. I painted more as a hobby. It was very exciting to exhibit my work when I was 17, and even more exciting that I actually sold a painting. Just to think that people would pay to have my painting hanging on their wall was such a great feeling.
Medeya: Why did you choose painting as your way of expressing yourself rather than another one? What triggered it?
Chris Klein: For me painting and drawing was the only “natural” way of expression. I loved drawing from a very early age. I remember my brother and sister used to help me to sketch trees and clouds, I was younger than 5 at that time. I admire people who can express themselves musically, or through dance or poetry. But drawing and painting felt much more natural to me, it was obvious, it didn’t feel like a choice, it was just me.
Costumes from the Stratford Warehouse N°03
Medeya: Does your life and its different stages have an influence on your art? In what way?
Chris Klein: Yes, I certainly evolve as an artist. But although my competency and skill improve, I feel I am losing the quality of adventure that I had when I was young. I wanted to paint everything, to experiment with many different techniques, never stopping, always looking for new techniques and new subjects. But I realise I also need some stability, I need to create a body of work that would be recognised as mine. Galleries wouldn’t be interested in most of my early work, there was no continuity, no structure. I still love what I do, but I want to do much more…… it’s just finding the time!
Medeya: How would you define your work? What do you say about your work to someone who has never seen a painting by Chris Klein?
Chris Klein: I don’t particularly like the terms “photo-realist” or “hyper-realist”, but I often use these terms to describe my works, as others often categorise me this way. But my work can look rough or sketchy up close. I’m not trying to copy a photo, I want people to see the crudeness of my work up close, see the brush strokes and see how I created the painting. But as you step back, you reach a point where it does look photographic.
Costumes from the Stratford Warehouse N°07
Medeya: What prompted your choice of subject, technique and style?
Chris Klein: I am always influenced by what I see around me. Sometimes people might not see or recognise the connection. But my recent series of paintings are obvious. A few years ago I accepted a job as the head of scenic art at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. We have one of the largest costume warehouses in North America. As I walked around admiring all the materials, the textures, I just had to paint them. I only planned to do one painting, but it was so enjoyable, as I painted, I realised there was almost an infinite variety of materials and textures, I had to continue and paint more. I’m still painting them.
But a curious spin-off from this was a colleague who saw my costumes paintings, but as he drove by a salvage yard, he saw a stack of wrecked cars. He told me that it made him think about my costume paintings, the folds of metal mirroring the folds of fabric, colours, and textures, just that the cars lay horizontal, while my costumes were vertical. I drove over to see for myself and took many photos. I knew when I first saw them that I needed to paint them. Of course, for the same reasons as the costumes, I am still painting my “Second Hand” series, and there is more variety and diversity than my costumes. I won’t get bored for a very long time!
Bodywork need a little rust treatment
Medeya: In general, what has an influence on your art? (other painters, the cinema, music, literature...)
Chris Klein: I’m a very visual person. Almost every day I see something that makes me think of a painting possibility. I often take photographs, mobile phones are great for that!
I have a countless stack of photos on my computer that I list under “ideas for paintings”. Whenever I feel a little bored with what I’m doing at the time, I will browse through these images. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I would photograph that! But I sometimes find little gems that could have a lot of potential. Looking at movies, it can give me ideas in the same way. I might notice something in the background, something unimportant, but it catches my eye.
I don’t feel other artists actually influence my art. But looking at other artists and their work, I can definitely say it can inspire me.
Complete with under-body protection
Medeya: What is the starting point of a painting, the early stages of your work? (a sketch, an image, chance, pure imagination, a little of this, a little of that?)
Chris Klein: As I’ve explained, it often starts as something I just happen upon in normal life. Often from a photo I’ve taken.
When I browse my images, I might come across something that appeals to me, but it’s not always what I want to paint. I will explore it further, maybe go out and take more photos of specific subjects. I will often play with these in Photoshop. I used to sketch far more than I do now. But with technology it’s far quicker to play on the computer these days, and far quicker to alter an object, and if it doesn’t work, simply start again. Mobile phones have such a great built in camera that I don’t need to sketch, often I don’t have the times anyway, but I always have my phone with me.
Costumes from the Stratford Warehouse N°04
Medeya: What painter from the past would you like to meet, and why?
Chris Klein: A very difficult question, there are so many great artist I wish I could meet. I like the experimental, people who try something radical. Picasso perhaps, but maybe I would go for Leonardo Da Vinci. He was radical in his day. Such a brilliant mind, he never stopped asking questions and exploring anything and everything. He rarely finished his paintings, I guess he got bored quickly and wanted to move on to other things. I can relate to that.
Medeya: And contemporary painter?
Chris Klein: Gerhard Richter, I admire this man. His work is so broad, “photorealist” to abstract, but all so incredible.
Costumes from the Stratford Warehouse N°06
Medeya: Could you tell us about a painting you would like to see with your own ayes? Why this one in particular?
Chris Klein: I’m fortunate that I spent a lot of time wondering around in London’s galleries and Paris. I’ve seen many paintings that I longed to see when I was young. But If I’m allowed to select two, I would choose Picasso’s “Guernica”, such a powerful painting, so much emotion. I’ve only seen it on the TV, but I long to visit Madrid to see this painting. Also, for very different reasons, I’d love to see the famous Lascaux cave paintings in France. Such beautiful paintings created over 17,000 years ago, they are just incredible. Of course, I don’t think I’ll ever get to see the real paintings, sadly they are still deteriorating, I hope they can be saved, they’ve survived so long and now we’ve opened them to the world and we’re destroying them.
Customised Convertable needs some attention
Medeya: According to you, when does a painter, a photographer, a musician... becomes an artist?
Chris Klein: If we are born with such gifts, then maybe we are born artists. We certainly don’t need a piece of paper issued by a school or university to make us an artist! Not everyone with such talents will pursue art, so maybe we’re born with a “seed” of an artist inside of us, It simply need nurturing to develop. I’ve always like to draw, even if I were in a different career, I would still be drawing and painting. In fact, I was in an entirely different career for many years, the motor trade. I was pretty good at it, but I always continued to paint and exhibit.
Merry Wives of Windsor 01 Stratford 2011
Medeya: Can you tell us about the exhibition of another artist that has left a special mark on you?
Chris Klein: I think every show I’ve ever seen has left a mark on me. From Vermeer to Picasso, Giotto to Hirst, all art affects me in some way.
Medeya: What is your most emotional memory of a personal exhibition, and why?
Chris Klein: I’ll always remember my first show when I was 17. It’s the first time I ever sold a painting and the first realisation that other people actually want my work and are willing to pay for it to hang on their walls.
Much Ado About Nothing Stratford 2012
Medeya: Can you tell us more about your other duties that have a link to your work as a painter?
Chris Klein: For many years I have been a scenic artist. That is I paint scenery for film or theatre. This could be a photorealist backdrop for a big movie, like a city view from a high rise apartment, or a “flashy” show floor for the Cirque du Soleil using metallic paints and abstract imagery. It can be very enjoyable, each job is totally different from the last. Recently I have been almost full time as the head of scenic art at the Stratford Shakespeare festival of Canada. This is the largest classical theatre in North America. We’ve produced up to 16 shows in a year. I’ve painted, or supervised painting, many, many sets here. Some of them have been great fun and I get to meet many interesting people from around the world.
Medeya: Artistically speaking, is there a dream you haven’t fulfilled yet?
Chris Klein: I want to be successful in Europe. I have a gallery in Portugal showing my work, but I want to be represented in other places, France, Italy, Germany and of course back in the UK.
Medeya: Tell us more about your current artistic occupations? What are your artistic projects?
Chris Klein: I’m still deep into producing more paintings from my two series, “Costumes” and “Second hand”. But I always get bored and have to take a “break” to paint other things. I love abstract, collage and texture. I’d also like to work on more portraits, I have a series in mind, it’s still rather embryonic at the moment but it’s developing in my head.
Gearbox recently overhauled
Medeya: To give our readers a general idea of our artists, I like to ask our guests the « desert island » questions. If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you take with you?
* What book? Probably anything by Richard Feynman
* What film? Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
* What music? Radiohead
* What object? Pencil and paper……… acrylics too if you allow me lol
* Which one of your paintings? Anything unfinished, otherwise I’ll get bored with it.
Only one previous owner
Medeya: What trip would you like to make that you haven’t yet?
Chris Klein: The far east, Indonesia, Malasia etc. I’d love to see places like Borobudur and Ankor Wat in Cambodia
Medeya: When you were a child, what did you dream of becoming as an adult?
Chris Klein: Either a scientist or an artist, I had a very curious mind and always asked many questions, mainly about the planets and the universe. I often thought of being an astronomer or a physicist. But I also loved art, drawing in particular. So I used to dream of being a successful artist also. Art won !
Thank you Chris Klein !