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.
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.
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