Geography, Reinterpreted As Art: Cartographer Chase Langford's “Geo+Morphic”
Many young people with artistic talent pursue professions with more of a practical bent—ask any engineer or architect if she liked to draw pictures as a child; ask any journalist if he writes short stories or poetry on the side. Such was the case with Chase Langford, whose “Geo+Morphic” collection of paintings is currently showing at Susan Eley Fine Art in New York.
As a child, Langford was passionate about maps, an interest that later steered him toward a career in cartography and geography. It was only after he was already working as a cartographer at UCLA that he began to experiment with creating more artistic portrayals of natural landscapes.
In Langford’s early “Map Paintings” series, he lifted shapes and features from maps, filling in the forms with texture, color, and movement to create an intriguing reinterpretation of natural geography. His following work was more abstract, eventually progressing into the lush painterly style on display in “Geo+Morphic.” Some of these pieces—oil and metallic, or oil alone, on canvas—are recognizable, or nearly recognizable, as maps, like the aerial view of an island chain in Archipelago 2 (2014). Others are clearly tied to geography, as in the molten lava-esque painting Caliente (2014). Other works look more like abstract landscapes, as in Indian Wells 2, Orcas Island or Carmel Bay (all 2014). Still others are boldly graphic, like the steely gray and icy blue patterns of Essex 23 or the dark leaf-like shapes of the striking Structura 6 (both 2014).
But whether abstract, suggestive of nature, or distinguishable as artistic renderings of landscapes and geography, all of Langford’s paintings are clearly of a theme—one that was clearly inspired by his early interest in maps, his technique honed by his professional training as a cartographer. As they say, you have to know the rules to break them: and broken them Langford has, rather beautifully, shifting perspectives and adding texture to shapes that might be waterways and mountain peaks. It’s easy to see why “Geo+Morphic,” conceptually simple but intriguingly complex in execution, earned Langford his first solo show at Susan Eley Fine Art.