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Wednesday 1 April 2009, by Fred Maechler
Tags : Art

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Focus on New York artists Eric and Heather ChanSchatz.

Eric Chan and Heather Schatz were born in 1968. They live and work in New York. They create all their projects together under the name Eric and Heather ChanSchatz.

Their work consists essentially of big paintings silk screen printed on silk. The pieces created are relatively abstract and mostly in vivid colours. Confronted with their paintings, the spectator can’t help trying to find a meaning to those surprising compositions. Since on one hand they are not pure abstractions but on the other hand they give no hint for any rational reading, those compositions are disturbing. What could be their sense, if there is one at all?

Actually it’s in the creative process of those paintings that lays their meaning. Eric and Heather ChanSchatz created in the mid 90’s an index of forms, colours combinations and phrases which serve as the basis of all their work. Once those three elements (some sort of DNA structure) have been created, ChanSchatz decided to meet the audience by selecting social groups and by asking each person of this group to choose one form, one colours combination and one phrase. Wanting to touch a large spectrum of social groups of all levels and origins, they have already worked with miners in Pennsylvania, American soldiers based in Iraq, the staff of a museum or the shopkeepers of their neighbourhood in Chelsea. For each participant a motif linked to the selected form and colours and in correlation with the meaning of the chosen phrase was created by ChanSchatz. After having collected all the serve from the group, the two artists arranged all the created motifs in a large drawing composition before having it silk screen printed. The final arrangement being influenced by the perception ChanSchatz had of this group of individuals after they met.

The created work could be considered as the abstract portrait of a social group at a precise moment or as the artists call it, a “social landscape”. The interaction between the selected audience and ChanSchatz is the crucial element of their work. Since the 60’s numerous artists have integrated the role of the audience in their work, notably through performances and happenings, but until now no painter had allowed several persons simultaneously to take part in the creation of a painting. Painting has almost always been considered as the medium in which only the artist is in control. Through this exchange with their audience, the work of ChanSchatz goes past the simple visual frame and takes on a true social dimension. By giving a share of responsibility to the selected persons, the artists transform very often their point of view on art by making it more accessible and less sacred. But what is more important is that through this process ChanSchatz reinforce the social links in each group they meet. By putting individuals, who already know each other pretty well though, in a new and stimulating context, their perception of themselves and the other members of the group change and improve itself. And this transformation of the spirits often tend to last well after the paintings have been created.

ChanSchatz will be included in the group show “Abstract America” at the Saatchi Gallery in London from June 3rd to September 13th 2009.


Eric et Heather ChanSchatz
PTG.81 Joseph, 2008
Screenprint on silk and mirrored stainless steel with etching, acrylic mirror, and acrylic on wall
84 x 134 inches (213 x 340 cm), 176 x 132 inches (447 x 335 cm) overall
Collection of Michael and Roberta Joseph

Eric et Heather ChanSchatz
"Together", Albion, London
"PTG.97 HMA-UTC", 2008
Screenprint on silk and mirror polished stainless steel with etching, and acrylic mirror
79 x 123 inches (201 x 312 cm), 104 x 207,5 inches (264 x 527 cm) overall
Private Collection

"The Gift", 2007-2008
Thirty-five PLW sculptures
Screenprint on silk and chrome hardware
20 x 20 x 6 inches (51 x 51 x 15 cm) each, 96 x 96 x 18 inches (244 x 244 x 46 cm) overall
Private collection

Eric et Heather ChanSchatz
PTG.102 Shamma, 2008
Screenprint on silk and mirror polished stainless steel with etching
84 x 144 inches (213,5 x 290 cm)
Collection of Tarek Shamma

Eric et Heather ChanSchatz
PTG.103 Al Turki, 2008-2009
Screenprint on silk and enamel on stainless steel with etching
84 x 106 inches (213,5 x 269,5 cm)
Al Turki Collection

Eric et Heather ChanSchatz
PTG.137 APUS, 2009
Screenprint on silk and mirror polished stainless steel with etching
68 x 154 inches (173 x 391 cm)
Private collection

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