Art of the Peace Visual Arts Symposium

Cran joins the panel in the 2007 Art of Peace Visual Arts Symposium in Grande Prairie, AB:

On October 12th and 13th, the fifth annual Art of the Peace Visual Arts Symposium once again brings together artists and art lovers with four fascinating presenters in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
Chris Cran
Renowned Calgary painter Chris Cran is interested in the way that a painting is perceived. He contends that we are “hard-wired to stare at a rectangle with coloured stuff on it that’s almost dead flat” and see a vista in it. That the way we look at a painting is “the pleasurable side of looking for a tiger in the bush.”
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Chris Cran Receives the Keith Evans Memorial Scholarship from the Banff Centre

Alberta artist Chris Cran announced as Keith Evans Memorial Scholarship recipient
Alberta based artist, Chris Cran has been described in The New York Times as a painter who "…has built a career on tampering with people’s perceptions." Widely exhibited across Canada and internationally recognized, Cran has become known for turning nothing into something, with the slightest push. Cran’s paintings, included in numerous Canadian collections, have to do with visual tricks, images that appear one way but have been made another way. Currently the studio fellow for The Banff Centre’s Visual Arts Optic Nerve Residency, Cran has been named as the recipient of this year's Keith Evans Memorial Scholarship.

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FFWD Previews Laughter in The Dark Room

FFWD Weekly previews Cran's 'Camera Obscura Theater' at One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo, January 4-30, 2005.

Laughter in the dark room
Artist Chris Cran plays with perception using The Camera Obscura
Chris Cran and guests
Presented as part of the High Performance Rodeo
Runs January 4 to 30
Centre Court (Epcor Centre)
A voice comes on over the speakers:
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen. No photographs please. Make sure all cell phones and beepers are turned off."
Inside Chris Cran’s camera obscura, it’s cramped and dark. The lights come up and a moving image appears on the screen. The small audience isn’t quite sure what’s happening, but they’re entranced by the image as music plays somewhere behind the invisible screen.
The Camera Obscura, which means "dark room," has fascinated artists and scientists alike for thousands of years. It is still a modern wonder for this audience.

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Chris Cran in Canadian Art Magazine

Canadian Art, Fall 2003
Essentials: Chris Cran: The Physics of Admiration
by Nancy Tousley
Chris Cran is one of those artists whose body of work, if you were not familiar with it, might look like it was created by a few different people. The painter switches styles to suit his needs. He thinks of the studio as a place to conduct R & D, works fast, with a tendency to work in series, and is a prolific painter. He has the hubris to be funny and to pursue beauty seriously, at the same time. The kick for him is in the idea. This, whatever it is, he knocks around, tries on, repeats, varies, changes and might after a while drop, only, perhaps, to pick it up again later on. Some of his brainstorms develop into full-blown series, others bring on intermittent showers, some produce thunderous, lightning speed one offs. Cran likes theatre: he dramatizes ideas, plays them out in as many ways as he can think of and always seems to have a backlog of things he wants to do. An inspired post-Pop painter, Cran has learned his licks (and stolen some)from Warhol, Lichtenstein and Richter. My Chris Cran - I say my because so much depends on who is doing the looking - is an artist whose greatest affinity is for Pop. He is irresistibly attracted to popular culture and kitsch, uses photography and its processes as a source and makes smart, intellectually fizzy paintings that play dumb. He sees the face of desire in the graphics on packages of ‘50s toys. And he can say, with a straight face and without weighting one more heavily than the other, that the two artists in the background of his “Self Portrait Paintings” are Caravaggio and Norman Rockwell.

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FFWD Reviews "Surveying the Damage"

FFWD Weekly reviews Cran's solo exhibition ' Surveying the Damage', a twenty year survey of Cran's work curated by Clint Roenisch.

Runs until June 3
Art Gallery of Calgary
Chris Cran is The Man.
The artist’s self-portrait series tries to define this ideal. One is reminded of this when looking at the billboard-like shiny enamel and oil painting, My Face in Your Home (1986), which was featured in a major solo exhibition at Calgary’s Stride Gallery that helped catapult him into fame. That was almost 15 years ago.
Now, this young, internationally known ACAD graduate (1979) and part-time instructor has his own 20-year retrospective curated by Clint Roenisch of Kelowna Art Gallery (appropriately located in the Okanagan where Cran was born and raised). The exhibit, Surveying the Damage, has been travelling across the country since 1998. This "art star" is also represented by two top galleries in Canada, Calgary’s TrépanierBaer and Toronto’s Sable-Castelli. And he has his own Web site at
Cran labels his three contrasting painting styles as self-portraits (1984-89), striped paintings (1989-93) and abstracts, which started in 1993. Each group of paintings appears to be radically different from the others, but they are all linked together by his underlying search for the perception of beauty.
"I try to make a painting as beautiful as possible," Cran says.
Beauty can be defined as a quality present that gives intense pleasure and deep satisfaction to the senses. Research on this understanding drives Cran to paint with a passion. Stimulated by "pictorial illusion," but more by why we are interested in something, Cran asks: "What holds that gaze? What are the mechanics of that holding?"
The earliest self-portraits are probably his most instantly engaging and easily read works. Self-portrait with the Combat Nymphos of Saigon (1985), a crudely painted war-and-sex scene from a 1963 mass media stag magazine, crams the artist into the corner as a nicely glossed, varnished suit-and-hat man holding a wooden gun. Cran’s unusual pairing of the codes of realism and cartoonism pose an enigma for the viewer. His nearly photo-realistic technique demonstrates the influence of John Hall, but the exaggerated, almost comic imagery recalls the pop art of Robert Liechtenstein.
Cran explains that it’s as if he’s standing on the outside "watching a film where I am so titillated that I’m holding a gun," thus putting himself into the picture – but with a toy wooden machine-gun? It is exactly this conundrum that gives Cran so much pleasure.
The artist’s next series of narrow, brightly coloured striped paintings are often subdued on blurred images from trivial spheres of culture, faces from the newspaper or kitschy still-life flower vases. Large Black and White Head #1 (1991) is a huge nine-foot by six-foot evenly striped painting that pushes the viewer back in an effort to find the picture within a picture, or to extract the explicable from the inexplicable. Instead, it exposes an incredibly banal face.
This early foray into the abstraction of realism furthered his research into sensory awareness. Challenging the modernist conventions of what a painting is for, he recycles imagery and pushes the threshold of the formation of meaning. These out-of-focus, trash-culture photographic-like images relate to Gerhard Richter’s experiments that contest the conventions of painting and photography by "blurring" the details into a question of what is precisely represented. This semiotic look at our sense of perception starts de-constructing the realism of popular culture to what we really experience. Are these striped paintings a travesty, or do they still fulfil Cran’s goal of being pleasurable? Or both?
In the last set of abstract paintings, it is increasingly obvious that Cran is more interested in objective retinal stimulation than the subjectivity of utopian dreams. The intense esthetic satisfaction of the senses manipulates the viewer into becoming physically involved as they move back and forth to find the facial image in Black Portrait (1993). This early painting in Cran’s abstracts references the portraits in his earlier work.
Continuing to delete any reference to his previous realism, the painter’s abstracts become more attuned to a real-life occurrence. Cran’s next works define the paint material in monochromatic continuous swoops that clarify his investigation into perception. Silver Painting #5 (1995) and Clear Painting #4 (1996) don’t make any pretence about being mirrored facsimiles of life. Instead they get straight to the point and draw the viewer into something remarkable and astonishing. These pieces are completely sensual, erasing the emotional or intellectual distractions of his earlier work. Where does the artist go from here?
The monochromatic Black and White Painting #4 (1995) is yet another step in Cran’s ongoing investigations to examine our sense of perception. Challenging the illusionary depth of a flat image, he theatrically plays with frames of illusionary space.
The up-to-date, latest inquiries into this research will be exhibited in the fall at TrépanierBaer in Calgary. If you want to know how this great artist got to here from there, be sure to revel in Surveying the Damage, now showing at The Art Gallery of Calgary.

Chris Cran in The New York Times

ARTS ABROAD; Mixing Up Perceptions, on Canvas and Off, in Calgary
By Kathryn Shattuck
Published: July 07, 1999
Off the canvas, Chris Cran can be as elusive as one of his paintings. Certainly he exhibits all the trappings of an art world denizen: black jeans, black boots, black leather jacket. The tousled curls framing a crop of serious features. The charm. The attitude.
But like the work for which this Canadian painter is known, first impressions of him are just the beginning. If you shift your focus, characteristics begin to morph into something quite different, even disconcerting. A slice of color peeks out from behind his collar. His eyes, once professorial, now dart and dance as he seduces his audience with a huckster's grin. The hipster is betrayed by an Old World courtesy, the bad boy by a heart of gold.
It's the power of illusion, says the artist, who has built a career on tampering with people's perceptions. Which is what painting is all about.

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