In the studio with Chris Denovan

Oct 27, 2018

Chris Denovan is a fine artist based in Cape Town, South Africa who focuses on mark-making with paint and creative composition of colour and shape in his portraits.
After graduating with a Diploma in Fine Art (Majoring in Painting and Printmaking) from the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2005, Chris went on to study at The Animation School in 2006 before starting his painting career in 2011. He has gone on to exhibit in various group shows in South Africa, including, among others, Studio 41, Salon 91, The Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery and The Irma Stern Museum. In 2014 Chris was short-listed in the Vuleka Competition for his portrait titled Kouros, while in 2017 he was selected as a finalist for the Sanlam Portrait Award. He has had various Solo Exhibitions, including ‘Obsessed with Ourselves’ at StateoftheART in 2015, ‘Artificial Beasts’ at Art In The Yard in Franschoek in 2017, and most recently ‘Lost in Known Territory’ at 99 Loop in March 2018.
He is currently preparing paintings for an upcoming group show at StateoftheART titled ‘Undercurrents’, opening 1 November 2018. View his available works here>>>

Hi Chris! Tell us a bit about yourself - What’s your background?  

My mom was an artist so as a child I naturally always thought I’d be an artist one day too. After High School I traveled a bit then settled down and studied art. I studied animation too for a bit but found my way back to painting luckily.

Tell us about your studio. Location, clean, cluttered, big, small, etc?  

My studio is in Woodstock and is very clean. I know where everything is always otherwise I’d spend hours searching for lost stuff and that bugs me.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

Maybe that I'm a part of the Art committee for AfrikaBurn. We assess art works that are proposed for the event and allocate funds towards them. It’s a really enjoyable process and very interesting for me to be a part of structural art as opposed to what I do; painting.

What does your work aim to say / Are there messages within your work?

My work is a story of materials and how paint as a medium can be used. I always focus on mark-making and composition of colour and shape. Someone once commented on a portrait that I did of a friend that hangs in my house; they said “Isn't it strange that you have a portrait of this person on your walls?” I responded that that isn't the way I see it. I mainly see my technique and how I painted the work. It is the brushwork and end result that I focus on.

What does your art process entail?

Finding reference images or taking photos, collaging them and then transferring the final image onto canvas with paint.


How does your work comment on current social or political issues?

I don't feel it does. I live in my on world. My parents always told me that! My paintings are all about me and my own desires and needs.

Who are your biggest influences?

It changes all the time but right now I'm loving the work of young artist Anthony Cudahy. Also, after my artist neighbour at my studio mentioned Neo Rauch, I’ve been kinda obsessed.

 How do you seek out opportunities and cultivate a collector base?

Keeping in contact with galleries and other artists is important. I make sure to have an up-to-date website and that my internet presence is fresh so people can find me and my work easier.

How do you overcome fear, insecurities or artist's block?

I guess I’m lucky because I never really get artist block.

How has your practice changed over time?

More attention to detail yet at the same time still aiming for effective/effortless mark-making.

What are some of the ways you have chosen to engage in and navigate the art world? And which current art world trends are you most interested in?

Navigating the art world seems like a difficult thing to even begin to explain and I find if you think too hard about it, it can seem really daunting. Art is life right? So I just move/navigate through my life and let my instincts guide me.


What do you dislike about the art world?

That sometimes it seems that regardless of how talented an artist is, “making it” can be purely about who you know and about being at the right place and the right time.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Yes, it can be. I try to make plans to see other artists in their studios, that helps a lot.

What superpower would you have and why?

I wish I could fluently speak every language in the universe.

Favourite Artist to follow on Instagram?

and there really are loads more…..

We met up with Chris in his studio in Woodstock and made this short film for a fun glimpse into his creative process:

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