Chris Mars – the musician and visual artist of outcasts

Chris Mars’s paintings had already been bugging my mind for a while, before I actually went one step further – into searching more about him, finding out who was behind those beautifully grotesque images. His work has been exhibited in USA and Canada (please, come to Romania 🙂 ). Some of his solo exhibitions were at “The Erie Art Museum”, “The Steensland Museum”, “the Mesa Arts Center” and “The Minneapolis Institute of Arts”.

But still! He is more known for music because it was the point when he finally opened up his creative wings, as a drummer for The Replacements, which later led him to who is Mars now. In one interview when discussing his early approaches in music with the alternative-rock band he said:

“It’s almost like [I’ve led] two separate lives—through the course of your life you live multiple lives, in a way and it does seem like that chapter of my life [in the Replacements] was kind of another life, and that I’m not living in that space. I’m in another place.”

Chris Mars
(c) Chris Mars

Although I think “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades” was pretty good and so were the following albums. But the first one, mentioned above, surprised me most because it was very different from the Replacements and significantly better! Chris Mars played drums, guitar, keyboards and wrote all the songs, handled the vocals. It seems, however, that he preferred to put music aside for painting (at least for a while), to bring awareness to his brother’s battle with Schizophrenia because of which Joe was institutionalized when Chris was young. From the “initial seed” as Chris Mars states, it grew to an awareness of all forms of oppression and all societal outcasts.

Chris thinks that his work helps Joe because it gives him the chance to be a part of something which sheds some light on human conditions which strike the society’s “normality”. Very often we are misled by appearances and we refuse to take a closer look. Most of the time, when we pay attention to details, we find out that they can change everything, our whole perspective.

Chris Mars
(c) Chris Mars

From that kind of awareness in real life, we can also track it down easily in the painter’s work. His works are dark but his characters are not monstrous in the sense of being evil (their figures easily tell that, their eyes mostly) they just represent what a creator feels, very much as a condition, may it be a disease or simply a trait – it represents only a part of each person around us, which may or may not still be there in the future.

“There are so many situations in the world that find people in heavy situations from so many causes past and present – my eyes continue to be opened, and I create work in hopes of opening more eyes.” – Chris Mars

Chris Mars
(c) Chris Mars

The painter’s works feature mostly distorted figures and bizarre, nightmare-like landscapes, illustrated using oil, pastel or acrylics. What is absolutely stunning about his paintings, is their esthetic. Chris Mars said that he doesn’t prefer to study, he just starts painting and enters his creative trance, therefore his style is purely intuitive, coming from the rawness of his mind. His attention to detail and the way in which he manages to integrate everything smoothly into a piece is amazing. It’s very easy to get blocked into a loop, where you constantly repeat patterns or faces, but for Mars that is not the case, as he does his best to never repeat his characters, at least.

Working in a very small room with windows on three sides, Mars says he rather prefers to paint under controlled light, while just to enjoy the view from his studio.

Still, just as he found ways of expression in music and painting, Chris also tried other forms of creation such as scratchboard art and doing animated films.

He wanted to paint so he turned his whole career and life around, focusing on things deeper and more difficult than fame. This made his work to be priced with more than 30,000 throughout USA and Canada. Even if I believe that the art industry is an enormous money-laundering machine (and whatnot), I must say that his art values a lot more than money could (or even should) buy. Very often that’s the pity of it – a form of labeling which makes art to seem something made to be owned and not felt, questioned, discussed and contemplated. When you own something you use it as an object. If you get a painting, you hang it on a wall and are mostly limited to getting compliments on the “awesome thing”. That’s fine but out of all those empty words how many dare to integrate it internally as a story with one face for the viewer and the other being the creator’s imprint? And how many choose to buy a piece because of that?

PS: He is also gonna drop his fourth album soon – a breath of fresh air compared to the old.

You can find Chris Mars here.

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Bucharest-based artist. Psychedelic photographer, brain-scratching writer / poetess and priestess of the macabre.

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