Painting by Chris Berens

February 21, 2014

Chris Berens grew up near the historic Netherlands city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, steeped in the atmosphere exalted by painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer. From an early age, he was immersed in his own inner world, a luminous realm inhabited by enigmatic characters and menageries of strange, compelling creatures. After studying illustration at the Academy of Art and Design in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, he retired to an abandoned building near his hometown and proceeded to teach himself the techniques of the Old Masters, consumed with a desire to document the wondrous narrative unfolding within him. Eventually he set aside his oil paints and began experimenting with drawing inks, a fluid medium which allowed greater flexibility than oils, as well as spectacular distortion effects reminiscent of the view through an ancient handmade lens. When he was able to depict his visions with some degree of accuracy, he moved to Amsterdam, and in 2005 began exhibiting at the venerable Jaski Gallery. After four successful shows in Amsterdam, he released the book 2239, and then moved on to conquer the New World. His 2008 American debut, “Go West,” followed the shambolic journey of his internal universe across the North Pole to the show’s venue in Seattle. Since then, Berens has continued to paint with a passionate fervor, resulting in a remarkable evolution in his technique and three more triumphal exhibitions. In his most recent work, he wraps his visionary mythology around an epic saga about the arrival of his first child, Emma Leeuwenhart.