I am so happy to share the news that one of my paintings is on the cover of American Art Collector magazine’s October 2023 issue. Check out the feature below, where I talk about the recent work for my upcoming exhibition in New York City.
Over years of collecting, Christopher Stott has amassed roughly 100 clocks, 25 typewriters and 80 cameras, not to mention an array of colorful trunks and countless books. These, and a handful of other carefully vetted objects like old telephones and gumball machines, are the building blocks of his crisp still lifes.
These aren’t your run of the mill objects— some of his cameras are 120 years old, and Stott doesn’t collect or paint anything made after 1960.
“I’m lucky my wife sees value in everything I collect,” says Stott. “But every so often I’ll come home with a really expensive typewriter, and I’ll get a look like, ‘I hope that doesn’t sit around for three years before you paint it.’”
Rather than exude and evoke nostalgia for yesteryear, Stott’s pieces are matter of fact and straightforward—in positioning and tone. They are almost devoid of emotion, that is, until you start reading between their neat, orderly lines.
“If someone feels a sense of nostalgia that’s fine…I think it’s more a sense of melancholy,” Stott says, adding that the old cameras would often still have film in them. “It was so old it couldn’t be developed, but I would always think of who was using it and what they were doing and the circumstances of why the film was left inside the camera.”
On the surface, the objects are simply beautiful forms. There is something satisfying and soothing in the symmetrical compositions, and the way the shapes fit together—the square trunks and camera cases offset by the circular faces of the clocks and camera lenses—into a visually pleasing arrangement of color, order and form.
The compositions and the act of painting them have a calming effect on the artist as well.
“Living in a world of chaos—from family life and beyond—it seems you can’t control anything,” says Stott. “In my painting practice, I can find a sense of control. I can create a sense of order and tidiness in my paintings. Painting slowly and intentionally is a form of meditation. It’s a calm place that I can actually exist in and when someone looks at my paintings I think they can get that sense of order and calmness as well.”
Stott often works on several pieces at once, allowing the canvases to strike up a dialogue. For instance, Wishing Well and 1938 Royal KHM Typewriter ended up representing different stages of life. The former has a glass full of colored pencils and primary school readers from the 1930s and ’40s; while the latter, with a typewriter and standard graphite pencils, has a more serious, adult feel.
At 40-by-30 inches, the works are slightly larger than life. Although he has been experimenting with aerial views, they are typically presented head-on, on a white shelf under high, bright light, suggestive of a product display. “I’m marrying the old traditions and techniques of the Dutch Masters with a modern advertising aesthetic,” he explains.
Stott’s renderings are a way of honoring these objects and the stories, like secrets, they contain. It extends beyond their appearance into the other sensory qualities associated with them—the musty smell ofold books, the sound of a ticking clock, the punch of a typewriter key, the click of a camera, pencil on paper.
“That’s what I want people to see—there’s actually a life to these things,” he says. “[We’re so fixated on the latest technology] we’ve become almost completely blind to the stepping stones that got us here. I think the initial invention is the real breakthrough and then there’s everything that came after.”
Everything is framed and shipped to the George Billis Gallery. As I write this, many paintings are in transit, somewhere in the middle of the continent and scheduled to arrive at the gallery in New York on Monday morning.
When the paintings are in transit, I suffer from mild anxiety. It has happened a few times when the heavy-duty packaging has arrived damaged, and I dread to think of how it happens. But 9 times out of 10, everything goes as expected.
The show goes up on the gallery walls on October 3, and the reception is on Thursday, October 5, from 6pm – 8pm.
I just completed a series of three paintings for my upcoming exhibition in New York City. Three birds-eye view typewriters.
I love painting the mechanical components of the machines.
There will always be something charming and delightful in typewriters. Each piece is 2 feet tall and three feet wide. The typewriters are all depicted as life-size. My goal with these paintings is to have a viewer almost get a sense of being able to touch and use the typewriters.
When I start each painting, it never fails that I end up slightly overwhelmed at the number of keys I’ve locked myself into painting. I once told someone that my ability to sit quietly and do something as tedious as painting 150 tiny circles and squares is probably the key to why I can paint as much as I do.
I have been working in the studio every day for the past three months. Well, I did take four days off to visit with family, but I made up for lost time by working in the evenings because I have an upcoming exhibition in New York City with the George Billis Gallery. The show goes up on October 3, and I have just sent the first batch off to the framers. I’m down to the wire finishing up the last few pieces before I can officially relax and come up for air.
In a few weeks, I’ll share the new paintings. This one here won’t be part of the show. It’s already on its way to a collector in New Jersey, as it was sold before it even went to the gallery.
A number of the clocks that I have come from the Ukraine. Last year, when war broke out, I was saddened to see that the sellers I have bought from in the past had to flee their homes, their lives and livelihoods becoming uncertain. However, I kept an eye on things and was excited to see that one of my favourite clock sellers had returned to her home in Kyiv and started her business again. So I bought some clocks from her and was surprised at how fast they arrived.
This is one of the clocks I purchased, and I liked how the face incorporated Roman numerals. It’s a simple breakdown of the simple shapes. An exercise in geometry, if you will.
Like the trophy paintings I shared last week, this one also inspired a more complex composition. Featuring a series of randomly selected books. I like the poetry a group of tiles can suggest, I like the ideas that one can imagine within the pages, like a treasure waiting to be opened.
These two paintings are in New York City showing at the George Billis Gallery. Happy to report that the large one already found its way to a collector’s home before it had a chance to hit the gallery wall.
I recently completed another small series of larger, more complicated pieces inspired by small studies that I have had hanging around the studio for about seven months. I picked up these trophies a few years ago and painted them a few times because the textures within the tarnished surfaces themselves are what I enjoy.
Above, we have a 16-inch square study for a much larger 40 x 30-inch piece below. These pieces are currently being shown in New York City at the George Billis Gallery.
I am participating in two group exhibitions this month — the first up is with the George Billis Gallery, a show featuring gallery artists in Manhattan. My contribution is shown here in the gallery window.
And quickly followed by this exhibition is the same typewriter composed face-in instead of birds-eye with the Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, North Carolina.
This invitational exhibition features study paintings shown alongside the fully realized larger version. The Robert Lange Studios always have interesting ideas for exhibitions.
I found this great little trunk with the heavily tarnished clasps, buckles, and the burst of colour from the trunk’s body. There’s a formula I like to apply that helps a painting become a reality — the repetition of the circles and the repeating shapes of the case’s metallic components, everything is almost mathematically figured.
There is significance in the number seven and the way the circular shapes of the clocks, bells, camera lenses, and flashes seem to be like clusters of bubbles, something I find satisfying. I had fun working on these two pieces. They’ll be shown at the upcoming Art Market San Francisco art fair on April 20-23 with the Billis Williams Gallery.
I’m on a bit of a typewriter painting frenzy. This is the fifth typewriter I’ve been working on for the past few months. I find it interesting that I’ve chosen to focus on these machines while much of the world becomes obsessed with artificial intelligence and leaving all the actual writing up to robots.
I think the best writing only ever came from when it was a deep-thinking human act — and a physical one, where your whole body was involved. So I contend that these typewriter paintings have gone from a nostalgic admiration for old machines to a defiant skepticism of new technology.