Saturday 30 January 2016

the unstoppable Christopher Shoust

2015 has been a busy and productive year for Sault Ste Marie artist Christopher Shoust.
Continuing to develop and present his work in visual arts, literature, music and film;
Shoust is labouring to forge his identity and establish a presence
in the world of art around him.

I've taken in many presentations of Shoust's work in the past year:
At his café show this spring, he draped a wall in blue and red pulses
of repeat-printed Rock Hudson and Noah Becker.

At the north end of Gore Street,
in the old downtown of Sault Ste Marie,
in a building which formerly housed MJs Second Time Around
there is an art space called 180 Projects,
run by Andrea Pinheiro and Devin Alexander.
They exhibit work by both student and mature artists,
host various musical events, as well as the Sault Media Arts Collective

I first met Shoust at 180 projects
through our common involvement in
the January 2015 SMAC film fest and art show.
His irrepressible energy and active mind
were evident as he presented short films created 
from found 8mm film footage,
as he delivered a talk wearing 
a tromp-l'oeuil scarf.

While at first glance and in some cases
one might find recognise methods and subject matter
which place Shoust's work quite close to Basquiat’s, 
(primarily in the layered presentation of images, abstract forms and text)
 there are deeper crises here.
In addition to navigating the borderlands of art, 
commerce, and concept, the work provides a commentary 
on North American counterculture in the late 20th century
as well as mental health issues, presenting a voice of the disaffected.

Shoust's artistic practise includes a musical project called Telephone and Address
He has released several albums through this project
and seems just as focused and prolific in his musical output as visual
Shoust’s music is thoroughly punk.
his lyrics are shouted, mewled, and screeched;
floating above guitar noise and sloppy hypnotic drum patterns.
Much like the subject matter of Shousts's visual work,
the sound of his music is exuberant and discomfited.
He describes it as 'joyful chaos".

At a Pixo Control show at Lop Lop's,
local musician and promoter Jamie Vincent
is gushing over Shoust:
"Chris is the most original artist in the Sault right now.”
He's talking about Rust Orchid:
Telephone and Address' latest release,
Whose Aphex-era sound coaxes simple,
hummable triadic melodies 
out of overlaid guitars, beats and looped harmonics.
Perhaps Shoust is a beacon of post-punk in this northern land
of classic/blues-rock, karaoke, and thrash metal musik.
But is this city a fertile place for such culture to flourish and grow?

Sept 13, 2015 marked the final day of Shoust’s most recent exhibition
at 180 Projects: THE REVOLUTION IS NOW

Curated by Miranda Bouchard, the show consisted mostly of
large-scale hangings of Shoust’s silkscreen work on rag paper:
colourful multiples in bold floor to ceiling arrangements.

The bright colors, especially evident in Shoust's first summer hanging at 180
Harken to Matisse's fauvist glow, by way of Rothko's more tropical moments

'Treatment', a series which Bouchard presented four high and five across,
fields a skeletal variation on Shoust's approach;
shadowy fragments displaced across space:
each marked with its own loaded artifacts,
sparse bits of Twomblyesque griffure.
Fragmented texts reference illness and treatment.

In the front room of the exhibit hang quite another palette of potential spectrums. 
A set of 16 from the Frustration Paintings series (400$ apiece) ca. 2010
whose appearance at 180 marks their first showing 
outside of the Art Gallery of Sudbury rentals department,
in which capacity they have also at times furnished the OAC Sudbury offices.

These pieces were created in the Bushplane Musuem studios,
then known as the Medicine Factory
Shortly before a break-in after which, Shoust says
"We all had to leave cuz it was unsafe there.
The incident destroyed the momentum.
Artists, recording and jamming musicians, video editing.
Everything was happening.”
Other artists active in the Medicine Factory include
Night Owl Meme Makers
Michael Bennardo
Rikhee Strapp
Brad Griffith and Cody Rydell:
of the ARG or Action Riot Guild
Mister Tahti
and Shelly Fletcher 

The skateboard videos that Shoust films and appears in
follow similar conceptual models as his series paintings.
Skaters attempt tricks;
repeatedly attempt tricks,
and continue to attempt them until
their goal is acheived.
The ritual loop destabilises one’s experience,
successful tricks ultimately signalling the end of the skater’s screen time.
Thus, fruition and disappearance are conflated.

The layouts in which Shoust’s silkscreened multiples are presented
also interpret Warhol's techniques,
the medical context of the Ghost Nurse series
further highlights the Medicine Factory's
healing usage of assembly line procedures.
Shoust has acheived the technique and productivity of the commercial artist,
perhaps unawares and probably unintended:
he wants something more. Shoust wants to be heard
and to have the cogency of his efforts acknowledged.
Anxiety vents itself as he works to heal himself through art.

The Frustration series was completed shortly after Shoust graduated
from the Algoma department of Fine Arts.
Presented at 180 this fall were 16 of a series of 40,
reiterations of what Shoust calls
"An emergence of conceptual symbols.”
Asked about his time at Algoma University, Shoust says:
"I was very angry. I graduated top of my class...
(But) the last year and a half was frustrating. 
Things were too slow for the speed at which I was working and thinking.
There wasn't room to further develop. The thesis was too easy.
I had so much work, I just let them pick out whatever they thought was strong."

“It started, I think, with four.
40 was how many could fit into the room."
Suggesting that the size of the project was limited in this case
only by the constraints of studio space,
Shoust hints at his process when he adds
"I stopped when my urgency was starting to peter."

It is a cloudless afternoon and warm sunlight is streaming in
through floor to ceiling windows at 180 Projects.
Shoust is presenting a film talk on behalf of SMAC:

The Anthropology of Documentary,

and discussing with me the
objective perception of reality
by the video camera.
Film theory as philosophy,
The talk outlines his stance against data fetishism and fascism

A strain of danger and of abandon runs through Shousts persona:
the artist friend who offers spent shells and practise targets as gifts, 
who walks away from a totaled motorcycle merely scratched and bruised.
Shoust has paid some dues and gained experience promoting punk shows in years past.
I think of him as a survivor of these skirmishes at the edge of the acceptable.
His work speaks to me of the obsessions of automation,
the shell shocked spell of the xerox machine 
spitting out secondhand sights in black and white.
Of two countries driven by machismo and devalued peoples.
Of twin cities separated by Mary's waters 
as they rush betwixt two worlds.

No comments:

Post a Comment