New direction for Chris Mann

A one-man show at Full of Beans permitted artist Chris Mann to highlight his diverse range of talents with a show that included etchings, prints, drawings and painting. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull interviews Chris to find out more and reports.

The focus of Chris’s Full of Beans December 2009 show, entitled, “Cut from Nature (Intagliare [to engrave])” was anchored by his love of Cayman’s mangroves, an evident reoccurring image in all of his latest collection of work. However, this latest show was a move away from the traditional large pieces that we have come to love and appreciate as a “Chris Mann” and instead focused on smaller works that have a dynamic edge to them.
Reviving a previously much-loved mode of art-making, Chris had created an intriguing collection of etchings based upon paintings of mangroves. The effect of the etching process creates a linear approach to the scene and is an effective and interesting take on the subject matter.
Chris says he enrolled in an etching course during the summer with his friend and fellow artist David Bridgeman and this rekindled the fun he enjoyed using the process which he first enjoyed during his college days.
“I am obsessive about the mangroves because they are such an important part of Cayman’s ecosystem and therefore so evocative of the island. I wanted to find a new way of depicting them artistically to create a new kind of image. Etching was a great way to do this,” he explains.
Using copper and zinc plates, the image is directly scratched into the metal. The plate is then placed into an acid bath where the acid bites further into the lines drawn into the metal. The metal plate is then covered in ink and paper is pressed into the plate, leaving the inked image on the paper.
“It is not particularly difficult getting a detailed image onto the plate, but it is extremely unforgiving as a medium and it requires a more precise approach than I am used to,” Chris says. “I am used to working with paint on large canvases that can be pushed around the canvas, as well as slowly building up images with layers of paint. Etching requires a precise technique that is based upon solid drawing techniques.”
The end result creates a timeless and classic quality in the work, perhaps because of its black and white colouring which gives the work a feeling of posterity, as well as the work as a whole providing the viewer with a glimpse of a time-honoured technique used in days gone by to create quality work that can still be very much appreciated today.  
Not satisfied with one new approach in this latest collection, however, Chris also changed direction in his colourful paintings that were part of the show, approaching this medium, too, from a different angle.
He states: “I am normally moving paint around on the canvas from the offset; however this time I decided to draw the images first and then apply paint afterwards. I’ve also used a new palette of colours which give a nocturnal view of the mangroves.”
This new approach delivered a luminous set of paintings which provided the viewer with a great chance to experience not only the colour change when looking at mangroves at night, but also the texture change, with waxy images gently rippling out of the water.
Chris takes an almost abstract view in these paintings, mixing reality with his own depiction of the mangroves, thereby creating a vibrancy and reverberation among the plants which draws the viewer into the paintings.
Hand-coloured limited edition lithographic prints also make up another new direction for Chris and they enable collectors of his work to own their favourite piece. This time Chris zoned in on specific sections from larger paintings, which allowed him to focus on one single area in greater detail. Again, Chris has enjoyed experimenting with colour, in some cases bypassing classic greens altogether in another vibrant and vivid ode to the mangrove.