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Contemplate the depths of ‘Shimmering Matter’

Get captivated by Christopher Harrington's shimmering matter as it graces the walls of Williamsburg's Ch'i Contemporary Fine Art gallery this fall.

A gallery favorite, Harrington makes his second appearance in the Brooklyn gallery with his layered, iridescent paintings that he says “push the limits between painting and sculpture,” with “Shimmering Matter,” now on display through October 6 with a reception on September 12 at Ch'i.

“I strive to create works that are dynamic from a distance but that also have many secrets that are revealed only upon close inspection,” says the artist. “My new work continued to push the limits of suspending rare and exotic pigments in industrial resin to create shimmering veils of color. By adding layer upon layer I have been able to add overlapping shapes to the coalescing swirls of pigment that have a depth that can’t be captured in photographs.”

The resulting works “juxtapose soft, flows of pigment within geometric shapes. The surfaces swirl, drip or drift.”

To get this desired, swirling effect, Harrington is not the cliched painter with a beret and color wheel on his arm. Rather, he works with a combination of two acrylic pigments, layering them on top of each other and allowing them to react and build up an almost lava-like texture which he then manipulates before covering the piece in a glossy resin pour to capture the texture beneath the surface and preserve the art. The result is controlled chaos, and takes months or years to complete.

“In many respects, my studio looks more like an alchemist’s laboratory than it does a traditional studio, with liquids, potions, and powders filling the shelves and experiments dripping or coalescing on the walls and benches,” says the artist, an associate professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Maryland.

With his bold minimalism and attention to detail, the artist is combining his two loves – the minimalism of the 20th century and the detail of the artists of the Flemish Renaissance during the 16th century. What makes it modern is the abstract, textural element that the gallery specializes in displaying.

“Christopher's work originally struck me because of the intense amount of texture and layers within each painting,” says Tracy Causey-Jeffrey, the gallery's director. “I become captivated by the undulating patterns beneath the seamless surface and are drawn into it.

“The initial appeal for many is his use of vivid contrasting colors within the works and his occasional references to past artists such as Mondrian or Rothko,” she continues, but adds that she hopes visitors “take away a sense of how dynamic Christopher's paintings are coupled with how much extreme care and technique have gone into them.”

Says the artist: “I want people to be mesmerized when they first see my work but I think that a great work of art is something that you can live with every day and that continually reveals more about itself and about you. That is what I strive for.”

Causey-Jeffrey has been a fan of Harrington’s work since operating her gallery in Maryland. This makes for Harrington's fifth solo show with Ch'i, which moved to Brooklyn in 1999, one of the pioneers into the burgeoning art scene and a dedicated platform to both mid-career and emerging artists.

“I think Tracy has made Ch'i the most beautiful and important of Williamsburg’s many fine galleries,” said Harrington. “She was at the vanguard of brave gallery owners to make the leap to Williamsburg and make it the art center it is today.”

As a mid-career artist, Causey-Jeffrey sees this exhibit as a launching pad for Harrington to get his work into a museum or corporate collection. In addition to the “Shimmering Matter,” Ch'i will also have on display concurrently work from another young artist – painter Sasha Blanton, whose exhibit “Ancient Experiences” is an exploration of the human experience in layers and the depiction of the human form. Both exhibits showcase the artists' strident attention to detail and demonstrable skill.

“I think that many more established collectors assume that younger artists may not have the polished techniques of older artists,” says Causey-Jeffrey, “but I think that Christopher and indeed the other young artist showing simultaneously with him, Sasha Blanton, prove that hypothesis to be incorrect.”

“Shimmering Matter” is on display at Ch'i Contemporary Fine Art (293 Grand Street) now through October 6, with a reception on September 12 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 718-218-8939 or go to www.chicontemporaryfineart.com

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