In his first solo exhibition at Walter Storms Galerie, Düsseldorf-based artist Chris Succo is showing new works created especially for this presentation. They belong to two ongoing series, White Paintings and Spark Paintings. Both groups of works focus on the layering of white paint. This material structures the pictorial composition as a malleable space where each individual painting is able to unfold. Painterly collage works constitute a third component in the exhibition, through which Succo strives to fathom the vast scope of impact afforded by the color “white.”
Chris Succo embarked on his first White Paintings in the early 2010s. The manual layering of paint and the painterly realm’s inherent sculptural dimension prompted the multidisciplinary artist to deliberately focus on painting as a medium.
In the impasto application of white paint on canvases previously primed with spray paint, Succo found an idiosyncratic stylistic device that also characterizes his latest White Paintings in this exhibition. We can detect a material kind of tension in these works. It unfurls between the thinly coated background and the white surface, which is densely populated by swiftly applied layers of brushwork. While color is often the decisive factor for the atmospheric dynamics in a pictorial structure, Succo’s White Paintings counteract this premise by using white to deliberately restrain the impact of color. The colorful canvas background is transformed into a subtle undertone supporting the gestural, dynamic painting surface, which is further accentuated in certain areas by the use of paint squeezed directly from the tube.
The interplay between chromatic elements and the white color surface is also an important element in the Spark Paintings. However, these are based on a different layering principle. If from afar they seem like an inversion of cosmic impressions created by bright stars in a dark void, on closer inspection it becomes apparent that the visual effect conveying black dots on white paint is deceptive. The white is only applied as a second layer. It encircles the individual “sparks,” which originate from an abstract interpretation of the sparks produced by fire. But in contrast to the rapidly burning, sparkling process witnessed in nature, Succo materializes his “sparks” in the thicket of a white mass. They appear to have been arrested in mid-motion, like a snapshot captured for eternity—which, in turn, draws a connection to his photographic oeuvre.
In some of the exhibited works, yet another aspect of Succo’s technical vocabulary comes to the fore: extraneous, spray-painted pieces of canvas that are collaged into the White Paintings. Works such as Vanishing Point, Flake, and Midnight Rambler situate the once again strongly gestural, white pictorial surface around these collaged elements. In their transparently sprayed, delicate surface quality, these roughly cut-out scraps of canvas contrast with the patina of the white pictorial environment into which they have been embedded. This once again discloses Succo’s delight in experimenting with material contrasts. Despite individually varying parameters, Succo’s image-making process remains intuitive at its core. Painting titles also betray the aspiration to freedom found in his artistic approach: while they can sound poetic and even literary, they are at times descriptively matter-of-fact, as if referring to concrete circumstances. Either way, they cannot be completely deciphered; it is a fitting response to the impenetrability of his paintings.
Text by Tatjana Schaefer, assistant curator at the Pinakothek der Moderne
Photo: Dirk Tacke