|| A child of postwar Southern California, Christopher Moses began at an early age to pursue a form of expression which was true to his view of the world. He was born with an eye condition which left him cursed with the gift of double vision, a state which only heightened his keen awareness of the dynamism of the natural and physical worlds. Moses describes as a turning point in his young life the instant in which a bird flew in front of him on an otherwise lackluster afternoon. From that moment, by his own admission, he was never bored again. The world around him, vibrant with forces seen and unseen, had only just begun to offer itself up to his unrelenting examination.
Moses left California to attend college in Oregon and remained there for eighteen years. As a student he studied Jungian psychology and painted and drew only for pleasure or entertainment. Soon, however, he began to create as a means to express or understand the often bewildering images and ideas which coursed through his mind. For Moses, documenting the visions of his imagination comes first, and from them a story or narrative later emerges. Though he took art classes as a child, he finds lived experience to be his greatest instructor, his driving influence.
Living for the past decade and a half in an isolated fishing village on Mexicos Pacific coast, Moses vision and his own commitment to it are further informed by the legacy of indigenous and Latin art with which he is surrounded. He has long sought out the expressions of societies far removed from his own. Moses counts among his major influences the vivid artistry of the many cultures he more encountered while traveling overland from Istanbul to Kathmandu in the early seventies. More recently, he has forged a sacred kinship with outsider artists of the Deep South.
Recently included in the American Visionary Art Museums High on Life: Transcending Addiction, Moses readily acknowledges and embraces the influence of psychedelic and hallucinatory agents on both his life and his art. Seeking an expression for the intangible, he finds most of his creative energy is consumed by a drive to capture and thereby understand his own lived reality, to document the insights witnessed by his uniquely deformed eye.
Moses work is marked simultaneously by an eerie stillness and an implied dynamism, much like that which defines the style of Surrealist masters Giorgio De Chirico and René Magritte. He captures a sort of cosmic snapshot, making visual the last nanoseconds before a particular image comes into clear focus inside the human brain. The movements of atoms and molecules which the scientist studies under the microscope form the crucial elements of Moses everyday reality.
He has in recent years been concerned with exploring several recurring themes and images which belie his ongoing passion for capturing the effects of sensory experience. His persistent vision problems have perhaps contributed to a particular fascination with depicting the eye. A subject which the artist often revisits and reconsiders involves an illustration of a field of eyes in various shapes, colors and sizes bound by undulating bands of what seems to be a sort of human musculature.
Upon first glance these eyes appear to be relics saved from some unknown martyr, though closer inspection reveals them to be representative of the many vantage points available to a single being. In Moses world, perception involves not just the moment in which an image is captured, as the Analytic Cubists suggested, but those leading up to it. He visualizes for the rest of us the realm beyond our usual perception. His concern lies with that which is all around us, yet invisible.
The image of a lone housedrawn with an arched doorway, two glowing windows, a steeped roof and a chimneyhas become his talisman. It recurs over and over in his work, sometimes as the focal point of a picture, sometimes as a tiny stamp of authorship in a collage. The artist traces this images nascent within his visual vocabulary to a once-popular test issued by psychiatrists in which subjects are asked to draw a house, a tree and a man. When he took the test as administered by a fellow student of psychology, Moses drew this, the archetypal house as rendered by a child.
His house, though, was situated high in the tree, a symbol of not only inaccessibility but one borne of an obsessive drive to ascend a higher plane of experience and observation. His house is the man, its doors and windows forming the orifices of expression. In his many considerations of this theme, as with the whole of his oeuvre, Moses coloration varies from the subdued grays and browns of the Dutch masters to the morose intensity of El Grecos pinks and greens.
Moses uses color to define not just imagined scenes, but to capture the vibrations, the frenetic energy of what lies beyond the everyday, palpable if we only take a moment more to feel it. His little houses sit in a variety of environments, often braced against the swirling forces of water and air. At first glance, these images seem haunted, a sort of surrealist landscape of a childhood emblem caught up in a morbid dream of violent devastation. The house, though, becomes a stand-in for the human as we realize it delights at being riddled by the forces of nature, of the supernatural. The little house is, in fact, a part those rhythms. The swirling streams of sky and ground, as rendered in gesso, create for the viewer a tangible, nearly audible sense of the pulsations which tread just beyond and beneath our usual state of consciousness.
Here, Moses presence as an artist is very much apparent, made evident through the undulating, impressionistic pulses of his brush and paint strokes. His use of this technique is born of an attempt to capture the present, to make of a fleeting impression something deliberate and studied. In this way, his works become a container of meaning as they afford a view of the transcendent, a glimpse of the intangible.
Moses works in a sphere far beyond the constraints of the contemporary theory-bound, market-driven art scene. The self-fulfilling wisdom he displays is possible precisely because he is free from the sense of self-consciousness which typifies much art of the present. His artistic oeuvre, as his life, is defined by his drive to capture the second, the instant in which the atoms and molecules which make up a given image race into configuration before our eyes. His interest lies in exploring and capturing the constant re-aligning of the universe. He documents forces which range from the omnipotent, considering such primordial elements as wind and water, to the fleeting view of a smile breaking across a womans face.
Moses questions conventional notions of the real, and instead posits the reality of the unseen, of human memory, of the forces surging all around us. His work is, in essence, a ballad of existence as it embodies the ecstasy of both human mortality and the physicality of the inorganic. As he captures the energy of that which few acknowledge, Chris Moses creates a window onto the magic of the quotidian. Not only is his world, his vision, made apparent for the rest of us, he challenges us to take closer heed ourselves. In his whirling vortex, always, that house remains, its windows glowing for our safe return.