Christian Holstad

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Christian Holstad
Seed Spitters, 2004
Pencil on newspaper
17 x 23 cm

Christian Holstad’s erased newsprint photographs, known collectively as the Erasurehead series, began as a way of killing time. Working as a waiter in a restaurant after graduation from art college, Holstad began to erase the images in newspapers while waiting for customers, finding that the action of rubbing out became a way of probing the complex depths of each image. Erasing is a kind of negative drawing: its marks are gestural, reminiscent of the physical action of the artist’s hand and arm, and yet their residue is a kind of blankness. Photographs in newspapers are used to widen the implications of the stories they accompany through the willful ambiguity of imagery: they say more than they mean.

Christian Holstad
Grasping For Straws, 2005
pencil on newspaper
13.5 x 19 cm

When Holstad engages with these fragments, they’re made both more complex in their iconography and are somehow saved, even memorialised.
Defending Decisions, for instance, takes as its basis a news photograph of decorated western military leaders, speaking into microphones at a press conference, presumably used to illustrate a story on military intervention (its date, 2005, might put that into a more specific context). The heads of the three men, however, are distorted by Holstad’s rubbings, morphing into a single pale blob, with sunken eyes and ant-infested mouths, added later with pencil.

Christian Holstad
Held Hearts and Bated Breath, 2005
pencil on newspaper
15.5 x 23 cm

This image of literal ‘facelessness’ – something of relevance in modern warfare, with its disengaged combat and remote aggression – renders the leaders as monstrously interchangeable. Similarly, in Under Development, a photograph of riot police disintegrates into a cloudy whiteness, the helmets floating like bubbles; it’s as though the images are erasing themselves, in imitation of modern memory, where the ubiquity of images makes them slip out of our hands and minds almost as soon as they appear.

Christian Holstad
Defending Decisions, 2005
pencil on newspaper
13 x 18 cm

These seven works on paper belong to an ongoing series known as the ’Eraserhead’ drawings. Ordinary black-and-white photographs are cut from newspapers; leaving large parts untouched, Holstad carefully erases the ink from other areas to create ghostly, ambiguous voids, rendering their subjects – political figures, landscapes, interiors – deformed and isolated. In their place, details are added in pencil to contort, warp and dramatically recontextualize the original image. This technique, married to the scale and fragile nature of the works, generates a tremendous and highly personal pathos, evoking feelings of loss and fear, and threatening our faith in and experience of media imagery.

Christian Holstad
Alice In Wonderland, 2004
Pencil on newspaper
15 x 18 cm

Christian Holstad
A Sacrifice on a Volcano, 2004
pencil on newspaper
17 x 27 cm

Christian Holstad
A Slide of Hands, 2004
pencil on newspaper
22 x 33.5 cm

Christian Holstad
House Training # 6 (Dancing Goats), 2006
Wool, leather, polyester, rubber, chicken wire, wood, linen, tie
100.3 x 40.6 x 50.8 cm

Christian Holstad
House Training # 12 (Flowers), 2006
Wool, leather, polyester, rubber, mohair, chicken wire, wood, tie
96.5 x 40.6 x 50.8 cm

Christian Holstad
House Training # 20 (Dancing Goats), 2006
Wool, leather, polyester, rubber, foam, linen, tie
101.6 x 45.7 x 48.3 cm

Christian Holstad
Cacoon (detail), 2007
Vintage aluminium lawn chair, paint, 2xist underwear elastic, vintage mohair sweater, xerox transfers, wool felt, vintage exercise boots, sand

Christian Holstad
Defined through deflation and limits of exposure (detail), 2004
Mixed Media: Cashmere coat, tie, white shirt, leather glove, terry cloth, polyester, cotton, vintage millinery trimmings, vintage satin glove, champagne glass, mens suiting and vintage party dress
Dimensions variable

Two stuffed snakes, a dark male and his floral female mate, lay entwined on the gallery floor. Clutching a bouquet of microphones, they confront the viewer with a wry statement on the privileged social systems that media imagery exploits. In the same breath, this hand-sewn, soft sculpture, typical of Holstad’s interest in traditional forms of craftsmanship, invites us to reconsider culturally prescribed notions of gender, domesticity, and high and low art.

Christian Holstad
The Brain Quilt, 2002
Cotten, felt, wool, mixed media
200.66 x 180.34 cm

Craftwork, and the use of everyday materials, are central to Holstad’s practice. Labour-intensive, often collaborative techniques such as sewing, knitting and crocheting feature strongly in his work, embodying his interest in the tactile object and its ability to convey sensuality and comfort while resisting the increasing ’virtuality’ of contemporary life. Like the majority of his works, be they drawings, collages or soft, sculptural forms, The Brain Quilt is imbued with a distinctly personal aesthetic symptomatic of a close physical and emotional relationship with its maker. The coloured and colourless forms seem to suggest the vagaries of human memory, or the contrasting sentiments at play in one’s mind.

Erasurehead series text by Ben Street


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