“Art has to relate to the world, and people are fucking exhausted.”
Christian Worthington, a Winnipeg painter of works at once abstract and classical, does not demand that viewers reform their sensibilities.
“Some artists would like it if they were told their work challenges people [ . . . ] I want art to be relief. I don’t want it to be a challenge.”
Studious and diligent in the areas of painting, drawing, and sculpture, Worthington not only expresses what works for him personally, but explores a universal, multi-dimensional focus on beauty – profoundly referencing Old Masters.
The visible connections to great painters of the past shine in his work.
“It’s not the colour people are responding to – it’s the tone. Painting is flavoured tones.” Worthington describes his new exhibit—titled Three—opening Nov. 28 at Gurevich Fine Art, as a fresh extension of what he began in the past.
“What I want is for people to get a good impression of my day-in-day-out process. This is the last 120 days of my life.”
Having carefully selected one-third of a year’s work with gallery owner Howard Gurevich, Worthington points out there are even more pieces not included in the show.
“I like big drama, big abstract works,” Worthington says on the size and presence of his art.
“Every artist’s relationship to scale is different [ . . . ] A [painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes] Vermeer is a precious jewel, and a [painting by 21st-century American Jackson] Pollock will blow you away. I’m interested in how a work is experienced by not just the viewer, but the artist as well.”
There is a sculptural element to Worthington’s pieces. “They are in your space.” Worthington also prefers certain techniques.
“I use a lot of glazes, and layers, and translucency,” he says, adding that artists whose work he is fond of don’t necessarily influence his use of colour. “Gerhard Richter is one of my absolute favourites, but his palette is too saturated for me.”
Worthington says the best way to understand which artists have a great understanding of colour is to look at their works in black and white. “The way I learned how to paint was to work for two years with no colour. Just black and white. It’s about the tone and the edges. You have to train your eyes to see an infinite diversity of edges.”
His CV exemplifies his private study over a period of nearly 10 years: the National Gallery in London, the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and far more. He left art school after only a few months and spent years teaching himself by working at premier institutions instead.
He laughs at the idea of teaching others, mentioning his stringent expectations.
“My students would have to spend eight years in training, draw for five, and no colour for three years. There would be a 10,000-hour commitment.”
Three is a conceptually open exhibition. To show paintings, drawings, and sculptures by one artist as an eclectic package is unusual, says Worthington.
“There is a trend to have very tight conceptual packages for shows. That is a good choice if you have a process that is very conceptual. My process is not like that.”
He is dedicated to the idea of not demanding a certain reaction from his audience.
“You can only control an audience’s introduction to a show so much. For me, I still believe in the individual work. Some people might read the show as eclectic as a shortcoming, but I want people to read the differences between my works.”
And what if someone wants more background behind the collection? “I totally like questions,” enthuses Worthington.
Come see Three – an exhibition on the product of 120 days of an artist’s work in the area of painting, sculpture, and drawing at Gurevich Fine Art, on the second floor at 62 Albert Street. The show runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28.