Mysterious Mythology & Primitive Symbols in the Work of Christopher Griffin

West Branch Gallery
Mar 25, 2015 5:29PM

Cave paintings have a unique ability to carry information forward in time. A reindeer on the walls of Cueva de las Monedas in Cantabria, Spain tells us about the life of paleolithic humans during the ice age. Primitive paintings in South America are how we know that man lived side by side with glyptodons, armadillo-like creatures the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Because this art pre-dates writing, they contain clues to a world that is literally before history.

“The human desire to embellish our surroundings strikes me as fundamental to our nature,” wrote Christopher Griffin. “My work arises from this ancient impulse to make marks and interact with the world.”

By referencing these primitive markings in his work, Christopher Griffin is making a bridge between contemporary life and the origins of human history. But where cave paintings tended to depict isolated images of animals in almost symbolic form, Griffin uses this imagery in modern composition. In these paintings, animals flock together in artificial landscapes. In the painting Goats, the animals are in a herd munching on simple markings in a yard. Giffin sets the scene against a yellow wall with a window. The flock of birds in Pecking Order meander about a scene reminiscent of Egyptian wall paintings. In each of these scenes, the backgrounds are in as much motion as the animals; as if the hieroglyphics have come to life and started moving about.

West Branch Gallery

There are no fewer than eighteen birds portrayed in Pecking Order, of varying clarity, color, and completion. Some are clearly in the foreground, but others are painted over or live only as etchings in the paint. Griffin renders the goats as silhouettes. The animals in these paintings exist in varying stages of corporeality. They are present in the now, but also ghosts from an otherworld, or, perhaps, remnants of the past. The paintings suggest a mysterious mythology; powerful, primitive symbols that bring faint memories of our prehistory into a dynamic, complex modern world.

Christopher Griffin lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He has been working as a full-time artist since 1990 and has been showing in solo and group shows across Canada, as well as in Georgia, Maryland, Vermont, Guatemala and Honduras. He has received public commissions for work installed at the Kitchener, Ontario, City Hall and in Ottawa. In 2005, five of Griffin’s works were chosen by The Canadiana Fund, which places artwork in the Government of Canada’s official residences, including one at Stornoway, the home of the leader of the official opposition. Griffin’s work is also in the collections of the City of Ottawa and the Government of Ontario. In 2014, the Ottawa Art Expo awarded Griffin The Lucille Broadbent Award, given to “an individual who has demonstrated artistic leadership and commitment to the furthering of the arts community in Canada.”

West Branch Gallery