Chuck Elliott’s work consists of photographic prints which he draws on a computer. The drawings often begin as rudimentary sketches or simple geometric shapes, with initial ideas transformed into sculptural drawings which can be explored in 3 dimensions on a screen. Twenty years as a digital artist guides Elliott’s experiments with the spaces, lines and forms before him, the aim as he puts it ‘to immerse the viewer in a colour field’. The Lambda print (where photographic paper is exposed to laser light) is presented in a Diasec mount (a patented process whereby the print is pressed between aluminium backing and a perspex face). This ingenious method of display ensures the drawings lose none of their ebullient colour or vibrancy.
Elliott finds satisfaction in the organisation inherent in the work, whether this be its reminiscence to organic growth patterns (organic and organise have the same Greek root, meaning instrument) or indeed its complex symmetries. He evidently has a high regard for the patterns and subtleties of stained glass. ‘It’s the lighting!’ I have heard it said - it is actually the inspired application of shade and hue.
Synaesthesia, suggested by the title, refers in this case to the psychological experience of experiencing music as colour, suggesting perhaps a similarity in the way modern compositions by Philip Glass (in a piece such as ‘Openings’), Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt, say, are constructed - an underlying basic arrangement with layers of detail gradually laid on top to create a strangely moving and complete whole. The drawings also echo the meandering motifs of the Safavid mosques of Isfahan, or the polychromatic configurations one might associate with psychedelia, or a child’s kaleidoscope toy. At times in awe of the Fibonacci sequence, the inspiration may be more prosaic, like the sliver of colour in a child’s marble that forms the basis of ‘Flow’.
Is using a computer to draw actually drawing? Is eschewing the use of computers luddite? Computers, especially the apple computer, has been crucial to Elliott since he came across the mark one version in the mid 1980s (he was among the first group of people in this country to do so). For Elliott drawing may refer to the micro-processes of building, refining, repeating, altering, etc. as much as actually applying marks on paper by hand. Varying fundamental shape and line is an obsession Elliott shares with many pioneering artists; Mondrian, Kandinsky, Riley and Gabo come quickly to mind, though the artist is eclectic in his tastes. He might encompass in a conversation his enthusiasm for Modernist art, a quick aside to an innovative piece of architecture, a nod to an influential piece of contemporary music, thence to the search for the Higgs Boson particle (see ‘Collider’), finishing with a quick flourish on radial symmetry (see the Radial pieces).
Possessed of a very traditional work ethic, Elliott claims his digital medium, means ‘more energy, more experimentation, more rigour’, so that he can create artworks which appear fluid and free, yet have behind them many hours of studio toil, leading to a strength drawn from time-consuming exploration, consideration and reconsideration, where the clean, sharp, architectural beauty of the finished work is a serendipitous by-product of the rigours of the creative process.
Aidan Quinn, The Beaux Arts Gallery, February 2012