Chris Lombard is an absolute treat! He is a very talented and driven artist who loves to create and it is clear within the first five minutes of meeting him.
His style is very unique and recognisable and his works are large and command your attention. On top of all of this, he is a very funny and personable human with a lot to say…whether through his art or his stories.
Let’s jump right into it…
What started you in your career of art? What sparked your interest in creating art?
Not really sure how to answer this one. I don’t really remember not drawing or not being interested in looking at or making pictures. Making art is something that has always been there in varying capacities; either as something I am addressing with singular focus or something that, if neglected, haunts me like a scary amount of debt. But there is always drawing happening whether its something large and grand, the doodle on the back of a receipt or I am defacing some kind of official correspondence.
Where are you based? Why there?
Dear interviewer, you have caught me at a time of strange flux. Although I live in Cape Town I am currently working in Saudi Arabia for the next couple of months. I thought it would be quite the eye opener, seeing that it is a culture quite alien from my own and I was right; it has been an adventure of surreal proportions and one I am glad to have embarked on.
What inspires you to create art?
People inspire me. I know it sounds cruel and shallow but I love the assumptions we make based on someone’s appearance: first impressions and all that. I watched this documentary on Russian mobsters and how their tattoos tell their story: like a C.V and a biography all in one. I like to think creases and wrinkles and scars do the same to our skin. We age and decay according to our lives and it is interesting to draw someone who is a complete stranger and see what comes out in terms of my perception. I also find myself drawn to the plain and unadorned photography used by police when taking mug shots. I think a photograph being completely functional and in no way about the maker’s interpretation leaves much more room for my interpretation than anything done with an artistic agenda already in place, leaving me space to play.
How would you describe your art?
An extremely earnest and often heavy-handed or laboured attempt at extracting the truth. Whether that truth is basic likeness or whether I am probing for something more notional. What is so interesting to me is how my interpretation seems to interfere with what it is I am seeing and how that tension somewhat decides the outcome of the piece. It’s almost as if the finished piece is the result of a fight between what I perceive and how I understand it.
Do you have any formal training/education relating to art or are you self-taught?
I studied Fine Art at UKZN from 1999 to 2002. Good God I’m old…hahaha
Any plans/changes/exhibitions/projects/anything exciting on the horizon for the near future?
Well nothing cast in stone yet. Let’s just get back from Saudi in one piece for starters, shall we? Obviously I would love to exhibit. Realistically I suppose I would be part of a joint show or collaboration at first but ultimately would love to dominate an entire venue with my monolithic ego pieces and dress all in black, eat tiny snacks and rattle on about my use of tone to whoever is close enough to hear.
What is your favorite medium/art form both to create and view/collect?
Largely traditional media: I love oils, charcoal and printmaking and just plain old pencil on paper. Although I would love to own a ton of art and cover my walls and ceilings in it I don’t really have a collection. I do proudly own a few of my father’s water colours and hope to expand this tiny horde at some point by adding on other artists. I also have a few wonderful photographs by Rikki Hibbert who has an incredible sense of the moment. She is a really good friend of mine, and a properly classy lady. With people like this in your life why festoon your walls with the works of lesser mortals?
What has been your best memory/experience related to your art?
The figure drawing studio we had in first year. For some reason that always felt like somewhere where I could just drop the façade and let the mask slip to the floor. There was this moment where it was like “fuck it, mate, just be yourself you can do this and you can’t help people with what they think about it so just enjoy being this amazing person.”
I think that’s why I subsequently always look for a space or look to make a space wherever I am living that I can use to make art. It’s like putting down stakes and establishing territory is not just an acknowledgement of who I am but a demand to be acknowledged as this person.
Who are some of your favorite artists (local and/or international)?
Oh god that’s a big question. I was initially really moved by artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Chuck Close then, later on at university, I discovered Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. I really love the visceral quality of their style of painting: the fact that Bacon renders flesh as almost raw and exposed or butchered in contrast to Freud’s more finessed and traditional approach doesn’t seem to matter – the underlying bestial nature of the subject is still very clear in the work of both artists and you really feel it. Freud’s more conventional approach kind of counters the way he poses his subject matter: this almost gentrified or academic take on somewhat explicit and unpretentious subject matter always reminded me of Manet’s Olympia: this gorgeously academic painting of a hard working prostitute; I always loved that juxtaposition of finesse and jarringly ugly realism. I think it was this that drew me to Goya and his highly critical view of society at the time. His Los Caprichos series of etchings, the black paintings (particularly A Pilgrimage to San Isidro) and even earlier portraits of the nobility show a rather merciless indictment of a barbaric and self-indulgent society but done in a most eloquent manner. I imagine that this is what being beautifully insulted might be like.
It’s this kind of unflinching look at the world that attracted me to the work of Pieter Hugo and Norman Catherine. I love the juxtaposition of the primitive and the eloquent. Paradoxically I am an unrepentant fan of Nelson Makamo and love his patently optimistic and sunny takes on traditional subjects. I love his almost kinetic application of colour and tone. I think he makes truly beautiful things.
What other interests/hobbies do you have?
Music is a massive deal for me. I think I use it as shelter. It has always been there and I love stock piling it, reading about it, watching documentaries about it, obsessing over it and boring people with endless talk of it. I love the look and feel of musical instruments: the weight of a guitar or the crisp edges of piano keys. It’s like they are art works created as a means to make more art works. Don’t ask me what bands I’m into. That just writes the whole day off. Although right now I’m very into dub reggae, particularly the work of King Tubby he does this killer verson of Horace Andy’s classic tune Man Next Door.
What do you do in your spare time to relax and unwind?
Competitive napping ranks fairly highly here, mostly things one can accomplish lying down like reading, watching indulgent amounts of terrible T.V shows and eating crappy yet delicious take-away’s. I recommend squid heads from Manny’s Fish and Chips in Harfield Village paired with a delightful vintage of Stoney. Another dietary mainstay would be the waffle cone from Burger King. Those things are like heroin; I order no less than three of those at one time, the first being devoured during the making of the other two. I also enjoy lengthy evenings of inebriated Youtubing: you know when you go clip for clip with your pal and its always that “ja that was cool but have you seen THIS version of The Cramps playing Human Fly?” kind of conversation. I am an avid fan of the Wikipedia rabbit hole; nothing more satisfying than finding out nine other things about bubble wrap that I didn’t know. Well, maybe actual bubble wrap is more satisfying or at the very least a close second.
I recently discovered the masochistic joys of the gymnasium and now find myself enjoying fitness. Which is very strange: up until now life has always felt too short to look at one’s heart rate on a little digital monitor. Although I think I need to declare here that if anyone ever hears me refer to my “sick gains” they have my full permission to shoot me right in the face.
The fantastic works of Chris is currently available from his Unsung Art profile which you can view if you click here. We are really looking forward to his return to Cape Town and to see what he creates next!