The Volcano Concept

Christine Arveil - Furnas Azores

Volcano is a utopia made of three integral parts: painting (lacquer), writing (novel), and earth media (stone & graphite). Now extending over 6 years, took a special momentum in Christine Arveil’s work, a cristalization of the artist process. The Volcano currently comprises over 70 visual pieces and a novel. The complex varnish-medium that is used is unequaled for reaching to the core of human experience. The varnish layering superposes different refraction indexes that construct fleeting, evolving images and denote a presence of life. The spectators see the painting each time as both alike and different, triggering new sensations and interpretations. They comment that these paintings and texts have an immediate “speaking” presence.

  • Phase one, a novel/art manifesto, was completed in 2008 (see La Faille -The Fault©).
  • Phase two of the Volcano Fault Utopia, the installation of paintings/drawings/sculpture, led to two solo exhibitions, Ilha Ardente / Ember Island (see catalog) and The Volcano Project (see catalog).
  • Volcano resonates with another recently completed work by Christine Arveil: Water Lines Artist Book.

The Volcano Fault Project explores the potential of a painting medium that I developed from fine Italian varnishing techniques. This medium builds on mythical finishes such as Stradivari’s varnish and Chinese lacquer, both of which I have studied alongside renowned masters and through archival research. What I call here my medium is a liquid akin to lacquer, consisting of natural resins and oils binding dry pigments; once layered on the panel, it becomes a solid in which I carve my images. I apply ten to thirty coats of this medium directly on wood or over gesso, sanding each coat. I cook gesso from chalk, layer and shape it with a knife to suggest stone, walls or other grounds. Altogether, the lacquer film is less than a millimeter thick, but its many layers compose an optical illusion of unfamiliar dimensionality as images randomly appear and assemble under different lights. The shifting forms and intense red color ultimately evoke burning lava and an abyss. Yet, the finish is sensual, inviting the touch.

The Fault© -using vocabulary and syntax in a manner similar to brush strokes, it minutely details the artistic quest and fictional life of a sculptor who lives in isolation for three years inside a volcanic shaft.

Next to the complexity of the paintings, the stone-drawings are utterly simple: a school pencil and a drawing pad are all I need to create them. I was in Ponta Delgada in the Fall of 2008, at “back to school” time. For some time, my mind had been wandering, piecing together considerations from the ‘grafiti’ in the margins of my old school notebooks to the meaning of realism. One day, I bought a pencil, a pad and a sharpener -no eraser- at the nearby convenience store. I was reconnecting with pure calligraphy, and soon realized that I could endlessly draw the same stone, focusing each day on a minute detail of its cracks and volumes. I returned to Boston with a few stones and continued a series of realist observation drawings only to discover, some time later, that the ghost figures of my paintings where starting to emerge in the drawings. This remains mysterious to me and questions whether an art technique ultimately influences creation. The first series of fifty drawings returned to the island for an exhibition over metal hand made stands.
[All drawings shown are 8.25″x11.4″, created with graphite pencil on paper]

Creating sculpture is for me both a longstanding temptation and something I have long dreaded. Yet the power of three-dimensional shapes courses through my veins. The figures I paint appear to me first in a sculptural form, before I lay them onto canvas. Beneath the figures lies a physicality that I strive to render alive. To create three-dimensional objects, I used my painting materials — gesso, canvas, pigments — and draped dynamic folds: my sculpture La vague (The Wave) amounts to a painting suspended in the air, skipping its normally flat, hard base. Although I started sculpting light-heartedly, the outcome has taken me slightly beyond that point, now presenting a potential future.