Chris Berens began having visions of the ethereal world he paints when he was still a child. After graduating from the Academy of Art and Design in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 1999, he set up makeshift studios in several semi-abandoned buildings in the countryside near his childhood home and set out to capture and reproduce the images in his mind. Unable to render them with any straightforward technique, Berens created his own complex and time-consuming method.
For each work, the artist begins by painting small scenes and figures in ink, bistre and varnish on glossy paper. The images remain wet for days as Berens perfects and repeats them, creating multiple versions of each image on a page. Once completed, he cuts up each sheet, reserves the desirable elements and peels away the clear coating layer from the underlying paper. The remaining semi-transparent images are stacked, layered and collaged onto panel to create the final work. Each piece is executed entirely by hand. No digital or photographic elements are used.
The resulting mysterious, soft focus, paintings blend elements of childhood fantasy and contemporary apocalyptic angst, interjected with lush nods to aspects, environments and genres of the Dutch masters. Endangered animals escort mythological creatures across cloudbanks, shimmering as if in a fevered dream. Beautifully distorted human figures defy the laws of nature as they float through blurry European cityscapes. Ships manned by unlikely fisherman, sail on iridescent waters set against epic skies. These works are bold, layered and complex, yet gentle and inviting.
Chris Berens has exhibited in solo shows at Jaski Gallery in Amsterdam, Roq la Rue in Seattle and most recently at the Noord Brabants Museum in 's-Hertogenbosch. He lives and works in Amsterdam.