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artist in focus: christopher king

Christopher King at Katherine Richards Art Gallery

Christopher King is an artist, designer and craftsman based in the High Weald of East Sussex. His work combines traditional folk art and modernist design to explore our changing relationship with our surroundings and the natural world

How do you describe your work?

It’s a kind of contemporary folk art: hand-made, contemplative objects, inspired by nature, that reside somewhere between the figurative and the abstract

What would you say are your greatest influences?

The biggest influence on my work is just being out in the landscape of the High Weald and its coastline, walking and looking, and being present to what moves me. I’m also inspired by how people throughout history have responded to their natural surroundings using available materials in an instinctive way, to create things that capture something of the wonder of the world that surrounded them. I love how someone could be so moved by a glimpse of an animal or a bird that they feel the need to create something by hand that resembles the thing they saw, so they can keep that moment with them in some physical form

Who do you have in mind when you create your work?

The first birds I made were for my own home so even now, in many ways, I aim to make each piece for myself, something that I would like to own. I wanted to capture some of my feelings for the small birds that I saw near my home, these small fragile creatures that were capable of miraculous journeys back and forth from Africa

Making the birds, carving shapes of the animals I see, gives me a feeling of connection with people in the past who felt moved to make animal forms. There’s something about the process of attempting to shape an object that reflects an element of the real world that is timeless; it connects you to something older than yourself

What makes your art different, special and irresistible?

My work has its roots in traditional craft and folk art. It also stems from my background in woodwork - I think that understanding of form and materials shows through.

I like to think my work leaves room for people to bring their own feelings to it. The forms hint at a bird rather than creating an accurate replica. They are a glimpse, or an idea, of a bird which allows people to bring their own memories and experiences of the natural world to the object. We all share a connection to the natural world but everyone has their own unique relationship to it

What do people say when they see your collection / portfolio? How does your art make them feel?

There often seems to be an emotional reaction to my bird sculptures - there’s an attraction which I think people find hard to describe. Our understanding of our impact on the wildlife that we all grew up with is at the forefront of our consciousness now. So, the joy of seeing a wild animal or bird is often tinged with sadness, but there is also an innate feeling of wonder. I try to create pieces that have some element of these feelings

Who responds to your work and why do they connect with what you make?

I think my work attracts people with an interest in modernist and minimal design. People whose homes are curated and considered, those who are drawn to a more pared back aesthetic. I’ve been told they sit well with mid-century modern interiors. I’ve sold work to collectors in Japan, Europe and the USA. People who have homes in the countryside also seem to be drawn to my work, due to the subject matter, I guess. It’s nice to think of all the different places around the world where my birds are, in people’s homes or offices, being a part of someone’s personal space


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