Artist Statement 2016:
My practice relies on channeling a focused mindset, enabled by the athletic model of resistance training. This training is any exercise, usually repetitive in its implementation, that causes the muscles to contract against external resistance, typically with the expectation of increasing strength, tone, mass, performance, and/or endurance. This framework allows me to rely on my body intelligence to move within my paintings and combine it with particular forms of conditioning gained in my youth. I couple this with repetitious action and environmental resistance to position my studio as a sort of ‘training ground’. A space both hypothetical and actual, where I compete with myself to continually push against my definitional restraints and boundaries of painting.
This physical process helps me construct spaces within the arena of painting that simultaneously display the evidence of motion and promote single-minded immersion in the painting of a painting. Though I have painted with many different types of paint, on various surfaces, my recent work focuses on the implementation of plastic and plexiglass. Typically designed to resist the medium of paint, plastics set up the ultimate form of resistance to my process. These surfaces prolong fluidity and reduce viscosity; becoming oppositional forces that aid in establishing the ebb and flow between surface and surfacer. My paintings strive to take on aspects of sculpture, creating an environment that pivots, spatially, around the various notions and experimental possibilities of painting. This strategy blends a physicality—rooted in the immediate act of painting—with an immersive environment established by the arena of painting. The result is an attempt to let you ‘on the field.’ Through the use of plastic substrates and projected light, I create spaces that change viewers into participants; moments that redirect paintings back to their original event.
Artist Statement 2015:
"As an athlete I could break free of the daily grind if I worked hard physically and used my imagination…This experience of complete connectedness is what I have coined superfluidity — the episodic feeling of existing without any friction or viscosity — a state of pure bliss…”
– Christopher Bergland
Painting, for me, is an action of the body; it becomes a form of mental and physical exercise. Driven by my competitive nature and a desire to continually create work that evolves with practice, my gestural abstractions are records of my activity and attempts to enact experiences of work and play.
For almost a year now I have been working towards describing and displaying documents that attempt to encode the experience of flow onto a surface. I have found that flow is not an inaccurate term, but it does not stack up to the particular experience I am looking for. It’s something one step above and infinitely harder to translate. Bergland appropriates this term superfluidity from physics, and it is a phase in which matter behaves like a fluid with zero viscosity. Matter appears to exhibit the ability to self-propel and travel in a way that defies the forces of gravity and surface tension. It is a liquid that flows without friction and with infinite energy.
Bergland and many others have experienced flow, which is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of activity or action. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkzentmihályi, the concept has been referenced across a variety of fields, though has existed for thousands of years, notably in some religions. Achieving flow is often colloquially referred to as “being in the zone.”
There is or can be a feeling of spontaneous joy when experiencing flow, but it is not necessarily euphoric. Csikszentmihalyi describes an "ecstatic state" or a sense that artists and musicians have of being outside of what they were creating with their hands while “being in the zone.” Bergland differentiates the out of body aspect of flow to a higher stage – superfluidity.
Bergland has effectively begun to describe what I am working towards. I actively experience flow when I work because it is the state I must be in to focus. However, these paintings are not simple enactments of the flow of activity. They have been pushed past the regular flow – they have been practiced, painted and repainted, marked and unmarked, made, remade, and unmade. They are a pre-verbal, pre-symbolic. They are mental images and emotions intimately tied up with tensions, postures, movements and gut feelings of the body. They are thought out through motion, they are superfluid. They are drawn and painted, and then finally erased, leaving only the memory of motion.