Making Paint Dance with a Sledgehammer
What goes down must come up; up and coming artist Chris Crewe has developed a method of painting known as Slam Painting which is a technique that involves creating an explosion on canvas with paint and a sledgehammer; this will become one of the frontiers to be studied and practiced by visual artists in the future.
Slam Painting, also known as Sledgehammer Painting, or Explosion Painting developed as a response to other contemporary forms of painting such as drip painting and splash painting. There is a stark contrast of force and physics between the marks that Chris makes and the others seen in recent pop culture.
Throwing paint around in different ways, smearing it on the head of the hammer, dropping a glob onto the canvas first, the loaded head often looks like a cartoon birthday cake with layers of colorful icing. Sometimes Chris fills a small vessel with paint and slams down on it, creating an explosion and a ring in the air; glass debris flying away from the center. His body of work gets a unique color and sheen from using cans of latex house paint, fine grade acrylics, as well as a shellac-based ink.
The technique represents maximum force and velocity; the warp speed necessary to create a big bang on canvas, a miracle in time captured forever. Using a Sledgehammer is awkward and clumsy, and when used correctly it can deliver the most fascinating brush stroke; paint flies in every direction. After a moment of utter chaos, when everything finally gets a moment to settle… for a second there is a moment of silence. Chris is known to jump up and down during this time, looking at his painting and saying he feels like he
“won the lottery”.
Holding its handle gives the feeling it can warp space and time; it gives the feeling of ultimate power while making the paint dance in supernatural ways. It is clumsy yet delicate, and the slightest maneuver can send paint flying in the wrong direction. Painting with the sledgehammer is the opposite of the horsetail brush in Chinese brush painting; loving this dichotomy of delicate destruction Chris learned to master the horsetail brush as a child which gives him a greater appreciation for his current technique.
Predicting, controlling, and engineering these marks with different techniques as shown to date, he has come to believe that art is an explosion; a sledgehammer is a fascinating tool that we can expect to see more of in future trends of contemporary painting.
When the violent event is over and everything settles; we can delight in the opulence and energy together, admiring the force and chaos of the beautiful explosion caught in time, loving the idea of permanence after such a disastrous event.
These paintings attract people who are looking for authenticity in art. It is fascinating to look and see that an arm of paint has spiraled around in the air 8–9 times twisting two colors together before it landed back on the canvas, the paint jumps from the center explosion and creates small islands of bare canvas or “non-paint” around the middle.
All variations of color combinations are born from the force, patterns that paint sometimes makes as it skips across the surface of the canvas like pebbles across a pond, the weight of the hammer coming down creates an indent in the canvas, now and then it pierces through to the wooden floor making a shallow crater.
Grabbing the moment feels like catching rung after rung on a trapeze always knowing the next one will be there. The biggest splash is made only when it’s time, Chris calls them “windows of opportunity” he has strongly developed his gut instinct to know when these moments exist, Chris has never had regret for a mark recording and learning from each one.
Often the paint gets angry before settling; it bubbles and mixes in strange ways, other times the dried paint cracks like the floor of a desert adding a new level of weirdness to the aftermath of the explosion.
Chris’s work acts as an endless source of inspiration, each time you see one you will notice a small nuance or intricacy that was not noticed before, trapped energy from a massive explosion. I like to think of it as one hand clapping; an endless source of the right kind of energy.
Recently, Chris has been working on a series of large Abstract Paintings featuring only the sledgehammer mark, feeling very cosmic and present at the moment; he is always ready to grab what’s there.
“You will see a starting point and let your mind get lost for a while in contemplation; I hope that you will dream.”
A clothing line will soon be available as well as a brand-new series sprung from this idea. Bursting with love and possibilities, the future is always in the works.
Chris Crewe’s work can be purchased directly through Saatchi art Online, his Pop Up Gallery this Summer | 2019, One can certainly Book a Private Tour of his studio when visiting Toronto.