This powerful and prescient painting is the work of a talented Thesis Student at Pratt, Chris Bristow. Bristow has superior technical skill, but more important, he has the capacity to listen to his intuition and put images together that defy the conceptually expected notions of this = that, a literalness so common in contemporary academia. In Deplane Instructions he was inspired by the ubiquitous airplane safety instructions behind the seats on all flights. He said he took it from a flight a few years ago. He said he just liked it. Often this is the the stated lure for him. But like most artists, his deeper reasons are kept safe and he reveals little beyond that initial utterance. What makes this painting noteworthy — he showed it in his Thesis Show last week — was the timeliness of the image.
Here is a large vertical canvas, a dark window-like block pushed to the left on an unremitting dull beige. At the upper left, the herald patch of a descending plane holds the rectangle in place.
By now the lost Malaysian Flight 370 commands ’round the clock coverage and its mysterious absence has spun a web in our imagination for over a month.
But, when Bristow began this work it was a month or more before the initial event. Yet, look at its sombre presentation, pushed to the side on an institutional no-color beige that mimics the wall. What was intended to be imitation marble here reads as the dark ocean. The instruction sheet guides the viewer/traveler in exit procedure from the plane. How could this young man in Brooklyn have been so prescient about a major future international event when he started this work?
I think artists hack the future. We all know this because it happens frequently in the our studio life. Often we don’t reveal it. It’s sort of creepy and frightening. Perhaps we worry we might lose the connection. But those who create in a free unguarded way by necessity must open themselves to influences given the meditative nature of studio practice. It is the thrill of feeling merged and connected with something larger than our small ego boundaries that we know gives rise to being a conduit to the irrational, the other, the beyond, the future, call it what you will. Sometimes we pick things up, not that we recognize what it is, not that we can even name what it is, but out it comes onto the canvas, a coded message from the future for us to make seen. I think Bristow did that in Deplane Instructions.
More of Chris Bristow’s work can be found on his website.