Christopher Alles is the Catholic Artist-In-Residence at the Sheen Center. For his residency his primary focus is on the subject of the portrait bust. He is exploring his own influences and coming to personal understand of his own sensibilities.
Christopher Alles is a sculptor currently residing in New York. He began drawing at the age of two, but it was not until sixteen years later that he began to take art seriously. This ultimately led him to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed for six months under sculptor Dony MacManus. There he discovered the beauty and power of the Italian Renaissance masters, and in the presence of the raw energy of their work, he encountered the need to become a sculptor.
After his time in Italy, Christopher returned home to Portland, Oregon, and continued his studies with Polish sculptor Tomasz Misztal. Under Misztal’s guidance, he discovered how to link the influence of the past with those of the present. Consequently, his work often references and quotes the artists ranging from the Renaissance to the early to mid -Twentieth Century. His primary process behind the creation of his art consists of a study from the past and its development to now, then responding to the contemporary world in light of this study.
Christopher has done work around the US, most notably the restoration of the statuary at St. Malachy’s Church, (The Actor’s Chapel) in New York, and has several sculpted portrait commissions for clients around the world. His goal is to create work that is rooted in the tradition of the great sculptors of the past—Michelangelo, Rodin, Brancusi—but yet speaks to a contemporary audience.
For me, the ideal, the perfect, always is in the mind, but through experience, the human experience, the perfect falls short of the ideal. There is a lifelong tension that exists between what is true universally and the reality of our failing this truth: again, through human experience, though varied and personally lived.
I am interested in the task of the artist: the artist as conduit to these experiences in the tangible and transcendent, the artist who accepts the task to enter into the the tension and mystery of experience while removing the distractions. Art is not an escape, but an embrace of what is most fully lived and real. In this way, the human experience is elevated through the means of art and that tension is made meaningful as it offers a window, indeed a peering, in to what is possible and Infinite.
To achieve this, an artist must try, must press himself towards the creation of a “little world” with his art, giving it its own properties and rules of logic. These rules determine the drama of any work. How the author maintains the rules, how the rules may break or be stretched to cause a tension and how they resolve are meant to build and reflect the image of our experience: experience of life and our desire for the Divine.
The finished pieces in my work often have a direct subject, a person, but the relationships in the piece go beyond the immediate to tell a narrative or offer an intimacy about the internal subject. My work, therefore, is not literal in its expression of what is being conveyed, but rather is concerned with the poetic and the musical in the way that those relationships portrayed resonate. I am most interested in capturing, through the lens of the figure, a world that is hidden from us but that is no less real. Perhaps even more real as it exists at that level that can only be discovered or “found” through the tension of beauty and violation. In creating a “little world” of visual relationships, of encounters, I desire to take an ordinary situation and draw from it a more creative potential in the attempt to reveal this hidden world of our universal desire and longing of this human experience.
In essence, I see my task similar to a composers: to build and reveal those fundamental blocks of melody, meter, harmony and dynamic in the visual arts. How to reveal the lines, tone, volume in a piece that lives for itself and yet reveals for the personal: surprise? Where to exist in this rough and smooth, negative and positive space with angles, dark, light, loud, quiet? These are the questions that fascinate and animate me to be an artist. How these blocks are put together depends on whether or not the gut and intuition can direct and are willing to be educated, indeed by human experience, similar to moving over the keys on a piano until a melody that makes sense emerges. This is in essence how I approach the figure. My greatest desire is to make art that moves people like music and to become more essentially human myself through the experience.