CURRENT ISSUE | FALL 2017: THE IDEA OF HISTORY
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Questionnaire: Chris Cran

Calgary-based artist Chris Cran, a longtime mentor to emerging artists in Alberta, takes our questionnaire. Cran’s work can be found in the National Gallery of Canada and the Glenbow Museum, among others, and he selected works for the current exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art, “It’s My Vault.”

What work of art have you seen recently that you can’t get out of your head?

Rita McKeough’s installation, The Lion’s Share, at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at ACAD.

What images live in your studio?

Paintings by Ron Moppett, John Will, Gladys Johnston, Ryan Sluggett, a Vikky Alexander collage piece, an Evan Penny photo, woodcuts by Herald Nix, a number of my own works going back to 1978 and a painted illustration on canvas of a behatted man looking ecstatically at a bottle of beer in his outstretched hand. It was for a beer ad, I believe, and I purchased it in an antique store in St. Louis in the eighties for 25 bucks.

Where would you like to show your work and why?

The Prado, so I could get an all-expense-paid trip to Madrid.

What’s the best exhibition you have ever seen?

A toss-up between an Agnes Martin exhibition I saw in the 1980s at the Glenbow Museum that produced in me an inexplicable emotional response, and the big Roy Lichtenstein show at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012 that knocked my socks off, which I have not found to this day.

Can you name a work of art that changed your life?

A small Cézanne painting in a collections gallery at the Guggenheim in NYC. Don’t know the name nor have I come across it again. The painting was of a meadow on a hot summer day. I stood in front of it for a few minutes and suddenly I could feel the heat. I felt like I was 10 years old and in a field close to my home in the middle of summer. I knew how he did it. He got the light right by getting the colour right and my nervous system knew through zillions of experiences what the temperature of that light was. I stood there for several minutes, said, “Wow! Cézanne! Pretty good!” And then I decided to leave. My body turned but my head didn’t and I wrenched my neck painfully because I hadn’t extracted my gaze from the space of the painting.

Do you collect anything?

Books.

What do you like to read?

William S. Burroughs, Cormac McCarthy and a recently acquired set of books called The Colophon: A Book Collectors’ Quarterly, with many printed pages including a David Milne drypoint.

Who is your favourite Canadian artist?

Agnes Martin.

What does the Canadian art world need?

It doesn’t need anything. The rest of the world, however, could benefit from more exposure to what Canada has to offer.

What do you wish you thought of first?

Where I put my keys.

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Comments

Neil Kathol says:

Chris has been my art mentor and teacher, besides being such a great friend to me and my family. My most heightened art experience ever was a student visit to his studio to see pictures he had painted over the years and kept for his own collection. I was blown away notwithstanding already having seen alot of his work I recall exclaining to him on the way back to class, emphatically: “You are a great painter!”. I believe it as much or more today. The upcoming NGC Retrospective is going to stagger alot of folks who (are open to engaging in the experiential potential of painting, and) haven’t had the luck to see his oevre. And for those of us who have, it will do the same.
Neil Kathol, Jan 27/15

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