A local photographer “sculpts light” to create his rich, colorful pictures, selected for a juried exhibition that opens this month.
Christopher Olivier has been developing the images that appear in the annual Houston Center for Photography fellowship exhibition for years. Well, the pictures in the juried exhibition, which opens on July 20, are recent, from the latest series created by this talented Montrose artist. But they are the end result of a conceptual journey that has taken several years.
The basis of Olivier’s lush, color-saturated images is the humble computer circuit board. The artist takes photographs of this now-everyday item and manipulates them to create pictures that seem more dreamlike than computerized. In 2004, Art League Houston featured an earlier phase of Olivier’s work in an exhibition during FotoFest, the biennial citywide photography event. Now Olivier has been selected as one of six honorable-mention artists for the annual fellowship show, juried this year by Lynn McLanahan Herbert, adjunct curator with the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.
Olivier says these latest images come the closest yet to his vision—“to sculpt light” in a two-dimensional photograph. “The original idea was how can I sculpt space in a picture. My work has been developing over the past few years. This last series look a bit different, because now I’m trying to play with the space more and the depth more and actually trying to sculpt the light in the picture a bit more.”
This work also has a spiritual dimension for the 46-year-old artist. “I am driven to create ethereal spaces as if engulfed in light,” he shares in his artist statement. “My work has always been rich in colors that don’t seem like real colors. The colors are also intense and bright. I have always questioned and have given much thought as to why, and I became aware of my own mysterious truth. I know now that this is all because I had a near-death experience as a child.”
The Texas art historian Jackson Rushing has compared Olivier’s pictures to the work of another American artist familiar to Houstonians whose work inspires near-religious awe. “Olivier’s digital images printed on satin have a ravishing, painterly shimmer that channels Mark Rothko’s multiforms of the late 1940s and their progeny, the poignant stains of the 1960s color field abstractions,” Rushing writes. “The lush, evocative titles—Deluge, Driving Rain, Ocean Depths, Mossiness—reinforce the luminous, aqueous images.”
Olivier posed for the picture at right in the exhibition “Snapshot: Houston Design on View 2007” at Lawndale Art Center. Olivier participated in this show, which invited design professionals and artists to present realized and unrealized projects in Houston. Behind Oliver is his photograph Deluge, one of the three works selected for the Houston Center for Photography show. His other pictures in that show are Rose Smell and Joyous. The photography show, juried by curator Lynn McLanahan Herbert of the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, opens on July 20.
The fellowship exhibition remains on view at the Houston Center for Photography through August 19. The artists, including Olivier, will attend the opening reception on July 20.