Chris Klein

Born in: England, north London
Lives in: Montreal, Canada
Media: Painting
Describe your work in 3 words: Luscious, rich, textural

The House of Montague - Acrylic on canvas 60 x 72 in.

"My costumes invoke many stories. The people who wear them, the performances played and the stages walked. I have worked in theatre for a large part of my life, and this is my way to capture a part of that. It's difficult to marry painting with performance, acting and dance but this is my attempt to do this. It’s also my homage to all the skilled people involved in creating these garments."

What themes does your work involve?
My paintings try to pay tribute to many fields of art. The designer is at the heart, the creator who imagined the garments. But I also want to bring theatre into people’s homes. Shakespeare, Moliere or perhaps a musical or dance. They can remind people of a specific show they love, or a particular character. My subject attracts me in different ways too. I paint sometimes because I love a show, or a particular designer, or I love the textures of the materials themselves, challenging me in different ways as to how to paint them.
Describe your creative process.
I often simply fall in love with the costumes, or a designer’s work, or a show, and then seek to paint them. I would seek permission first. It’s important as this is another artist’s work and someone always own the copyright. I then need to take photographs, so I can stage the garments as I want to paint them. I then study the shadows, the light, sometimes I rearrange them in Photoshop and adjust the folds and shadows a little more. When I have a final image, I will go to work painting. I used to grid and draw traditionally, but now I project, it save lots of time initially. I prefer acrylics, although I’ve painted with oils. I use lots of glazes and slowly build up the image. This can give the “feel” and richness of an oil painting.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. It sounds clichéd but it’s true. I use to love drawing when I was very young. My family are all artistic and my brothers and sister helped me with tips and tricks. So for me, I’m inspired with everything I see. I loved to paint nature, but moved on to racing cars, motorcycles, clouds, and eventually, to costumes!
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?

Yes, it is difficult, Lol! But I think great art could encompass many traditions. It doesn’t have to be a realistic depiction of anything. This is just a measure of a person’s skills but there doesn’t have to be emotion in it. But I can’t help being stunned by a Caravaggio or a Rembrandt.

The best artworks should generate emotion in the viewer. That’s why I love some of the work of Damien Hirst, or Marcel Duchamp, they certainly get people emotional! But art doesn’t have to shock, some conceptual artworks can bring people to tears, sadness or joy. Some political pieces by Ai Weiwei or Kara Walker are very powerful.

What is the role of the artist today?
I think art plays many, many roles. Art has always been political and a driver of change. I think that’s great. Many people risk their lives for their art, and some die. So art is a very powerful medium. Many people think art should just fill a hole on the wall and make a home pretty. We need art like that too, but we can never take art for granted. I like art that makes a statement, but I paint more for pleasure, and sometimes it brings joy to others. I don’t think my art gets people angry. There’s a place for all kinds of art in the world.
The House of Capulet - Acrylic on canvas 60 z 72 in.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist