Chad Airhart

Artist Statement

My paintings develop from two basic forces—chaos and control. I see this polarity of extremes as the ambivalent to and fro of decision and uncertainty, observation and imagination, and the incessant struggle between impetuous enthusiasm and intellectual detachment.

The themes of my work originate from imaginary worlds of gathering people, ants, and memories of landscapes. From a vantage point that looks down, I use the abstractions of people clusters as means to both an imaginary fiction and as reliable design modules to lend structure and unity. I experiment with the ambiguity between figure and ground, color schemes, tactile surfaces, and different sequences of gestures that create rhythm and asymmetrical balance.

The act of painting captures relative states of mind and isolated emotions, and eventually the painting begins to take shape with its own identity. I place my art in the modernist aesthetic tradition, which includes Expressionism (Abstract, German, and Neo-), Cubism, Surrealism, and several contemporary artists such as Frank Auerbach, John Alexander, and Terry Winters. In this vein is a formal concern for spatial compression, paint application, texture, and color as carrier of meaning. As a performance in experimentation and problem solving, a painting suggests an autonomous act of personal freedom within its formal and iconographical components.

Biography

Chad Airhart received his Ph.D. of Humanities in Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas with a dissertation that embodied a creative project, history, philosophy, and art theory. He is a Modernist scholar of late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century American and French art history with a specialty in the relationship between art theory and art practice, aesthetic theory, art criticism, human figure representation, and gestural abstraction. Dr. Airhart has published Painterly Myopia and the Main Ingredient: Flesh, A Look at the Work of Soutine, Bacon, Dubuffet, and De Kooning, a chapter for the anthology Space and Time in Artistic Practice and Aesthetics: The Legacy of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, I.B. Tauris (London).

Based on an overhead vantage point that looks down at the social gatherings of people and ants, his paintings blend figuration and gestural abstraction with a penchant for thickly applied paint. He has participated in numerous exhibitions and is represented by the Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden in Dallas, Texas and The District Gallery in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chad lives with his wife and two children in Jefferson City, Tennessee, where he is an Associate Professor of Art History at Carson-Newman University.