Paintings, music & monsters...

INSIDE artzine #17 (PREVIEW/BUY)
+++ Matt Lombard (USA), Seth Siro Anton (GRE), Marcelo Vasco (BRA), Shichigoro Shingo (japan) +++

CHECK OUT THE SPECIAL ABOUT HIS GALLERY REPRESENTATIVE “COPRO GALLERY” (including an interview with the gallery owner and pictures of Chris Mars, Chet Zar and others) in INSIDE artzine #21 (PREVIEW/BUY)

Chris Mars, painer, infront of one of his masterpieces, dark artIt is difficult to describe the pictures of the American painter Chris Mars. Although he uses a wide variety of media such as oil paint, pastel chalk, scratchboard, or even film and music, a certain thought seems to run through all his works. They all seem to want to tell a dark, unknown story. The expression in the faces he depicts is too impressive, the scenarios too oppressively detailed and the dreams of the viewer too lastingly disturbed to be a mere visualization of an indefinable mood of the painter. Years ago, for an interview in the magazine VIRUS, I asked the painter and musician from Minneapolis/USA exactly this. He replied, “In the end, I want my paintings to tell a story, but at the beginning I never know which one it will be.” So let’s follow the dark path through the imagination of Chris Mars, wherever it may lead us.

The name Chris Mars first seeped into the world in 1979 when he was the co-founder and drummer of the band “The Replacements”. Initially a punk band with legendary wild, alcoholic live gigs, the band with the singer Paul Westerberg then turned to the much quieter “Alternative Rock” in the eighties and even reached number 1 in the American Billboard Modern Rock Charts.

Chris Mars, painter, The Replacements, USA, sureal art, oli painting, schitzophrenia, hanford, nuclear contamination, malformation, eyes, tentacles

Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. Although the (later) music was radiating some sort of dark melancholy, it is difficult to find roots there for the painter’s obsession that burst out of Chris Mars after he left the band in 1991.

The boundaries between artist and artwork often seem to be fluid in dark, surreal art which has the effect that the viewer is driven into the realm of a personal revelation between beauty and abyss, “Let me tell you something about monsters. I have great empathy toward monsters, or more accurately, perceived monsters. To me, monsters are more like misfits, people who are physically deformed, or rather, uniquely formed (as indeed we all are, each of us); or, people who are mentally on a different plane than the majority. I am sympathetic toward perceived monsters, because I have known and loved perceived monsters, and have felt this way myself.“ Do we see “monsters” in the pictures of Chris Mars? Are faces with these deeply emotional looks “monsters”? Or is it just that what often makes his works seem grotesque? The beauty of the monster…. Chris Mars himself?

Chris Mars, painter, The Replacements, USA, sureal art, oli painting, schitzophrenia, faces, letter, red nose


A key to Chris Mars’ work seems to lie in his past. In interviews as well as on his homepage, he tells about his brother who suffered from schizophrenia. “He saw things, he heard things. Were they monsters? Was he? He was fifteen. I was five. I went to see him. The sights, sounds and smells I experienced as a small child visiting him there, are prevalent throughout my work. Did he see monsters? Or did I?”

Chris Mars, painter, The Replacements, USA, sureal art, oli painting, schitzophrenia, hanford, nuclear contamination, malformation, eyes, tentacles, artscum

It is not so much the disease itself, which is accompanied by a strong change in perception (voices, hallucinations) and behavior (listlessness, falling silent) of the person concerned, that obviously has become the object of Chris Mars’ artistic vision. It is rather the way how society dealt with his brother’s illness in particular and with “otherness” in general that became the topic of his creative action: “I want people to consider the beauty that lives beneath the veneer of my troubled figures and faces. Through my work, it is my intention to bring these souls forward as a symbol of and a memorial to the many who live with mental illness, those who are labeled and thereby limited by some flaw that is in truth only a fraction of what that whole person is about.

We are the monsters! Look into the Chris Mars’ pictures as if you looked into a mirror. Nobody is really ugly, not even those who only believe in beauty. One of his art books is therefore called “Tolerance” (Shoplink)

Read more of his thoughts on his WEBSITE watch the incredible videos/shortfilms on his YouTube channel (some “time-lapse paintings” videos showing how he paints his masterpieces) and also check out the other artists like Chet Zar, Menton 3 and Allen Williams from his gallery representative COPRO