Chris Cran

About the Artist

Chris Cran was born in Ocean Falls, British Columbia in 1949. He grew up at Salmon Arm, B.C. and studied  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  at the Kootenay School of Art at Nelson, B.C., and at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, Alberta.

Cran first caught the attention of the art world (literally) with his  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of self-portraits which he began in 1984. These paintings were given titles such as Self-Portrait Accepting A Cheque For The Commission of This Painting, Self-Portrait as Max Beckmann, and My Face in Your Home. In this series Cran portrayed himself wearing a dark suit and a straw hat. He was poking fun at, and taking serious jabs at, the self-promoting “art star” determined to achieve fame and fortune.

From the self-portraits Cran moved on to explore the nature of perception with a series of Stripe Paintings. In these works Cran combined images from art history and from news and advertising photography with dazzling screens of coloured stripes that engage the viewer but frustrate their attempts to read the image. He challenges the way we, as viewers, perceive the process of painting and paint as a medium.

Cran was interested in exploring the power of the image and the extent to which it can be degraded and still have meaning. Cran’s work often forces us to ask, “What exactly am I looking at?”  In his commentary for an exhibition of Cran’s Stripe Paintings, critic Raold Nasgaard observed: “…their authority is accompanied by seductive power: images attract and encourage reading, and arouse our inevitable urge to identify and understand. Hence our drawn-out obsession with these images as they successively coalesce and disintegrate, encouraging our desire and rewarding us with loss.” (Nasgaard, 1998)

Regarding Green Boy, the work presented here on the ARTSask site (which is from the Mendel Art Gallery collection), critic Jack Anderson describes it as a “…large painting of dots and strips that coalesces only at a distance into a profile image of a young boy, shifts from meaningless to meaningful. Sourced from mid-20th-century pop-culture advertising photography, this image is not only about visual perception and visual optics; it is about cultural optics and personal identity.” (Anderson, 2004)

Cran is an artist and teacher in Calgary, Alberta. He was the guest artist at the Emma Lake Artist Workshop in 2001.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning