I believe in icons.
In today’s media-fueled world we are bombarded by imagery of all sorts. Many of these images tend to be “iconic” and burn their way into our collective consciousness. These images often develop a meaning that is entirely their own and depart vastly from the initial context. What type of images “burn” into ones mind, consciously or not, is of great interest to me.
It strikes me that a strong iconic image – of any sort – differs from todays conceptual mantra and the “art for art’s sake” norm. Icons are, by nature, communication tools. As such they tend to push their message in a very straight forward manner that can be understood on many levels.
I like to borrow or create my own icons from classical influences but add a healthy dose of our current popular culture and often intertwine opposing ideas. My Icons disregard their original context and instead replace or update the initial meanings. I may portray a Madonna as a topless Magdelena, who forces a cross toward the viewer –at knifepoint– as if she was an inquisitor. I may also choose to portray a classic Orthodox Madonna holding a lowly tinfoil wrapped burrito.
Throughout history icons have represented religious, or political ideals, this takes form not only in the illustrated image, but in the composition of the artwork at a very root level. Often sacred geometry is used to create dynamic images that have a deeper hidden meaning. Triangles, arcs, pyramids, the Golden Mean are all prevalent in traditional icons in specific proportions, and all are used to enhance an icons inner message.
The Freemasons love symbols, geometry, and secret hidden meanings, which is one of the reasons I have been so intrigued by their collective artwork. While researching Masonic artwork, I found that many of the greatest artists in history were Freemasons and used sacred Masonic geometry in their work.
I decided that if I was to make proper icons, I should try to learn how to include some of these ideals in my own work. The majority of my icons have a solid geometric foundation which I then try to obfuscate with brash colors and banal cultural imagery. My work may have an overt political message, or simply be a humorous imbalance of imagery & symbolism.
Technically, as a painter, I try to mix up traditional painting techniques with modern paint chemistry. I use a lot of traditional gold leaf in my work, but also work with hand-made holographic paints and custom pigments. I may combine a traditional glazing technique for color yet overlay a hardline black line-work in an automotive pinstriping technique.
- Chris Shaw, 2010