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Look into the Dream Portals of Chris Berens

20 May 2010 One Million Watts 10,932 views 3 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

It can be so difficult to try and explain a dream to someone else — to really convey what it was like, what you experienced and saw — because dreams take place behind our eyes, where no one else can go. Rules change unpredictably and anything is possible … so how do you make sense of it for the benefit of someone else?

The paintings of Dutch artist Chris Berens feel like incredible glimpses into another person’s dreams. Everything is soft, distorted and unfocused. Just like in a dream, physical features and proportions aren’t quite right; familiar and alien at the same time. In addition to impressively large pieces set in ghostly environs and nebulous cloudscapes, he has produced a series of 99 smaller paintings that look more like portals than portraits, where the subjects depicted often seem to be peering back out at the viewer, just as puzzled by and interested in this world as we are in theirs.

What makes these paintings even more intriguing and fantastic is the incredibly painstaking and time-consuming process used to create them. There is something particularly delightful about discovering an artist who has a method that would never occur to you in a thousand years, which one of his press releases describes thus:

“He begins by painting small scenes and figures in ink, bistre and varnish on glossy paper. The images remain wet for days as Berens perfects and repeats them, creating multiple versions of each image on a page. Once completed, he cuts up each sheet into smaller pieces, reserves the desirable elements and peels away the clear coating layer from the underlying paper. The remaining semi-transparent images are stacked, layered and collaged onto panel to create the final work. Each piece is executed entirely by hand. No digital or photographic elements are used.”

Of course, when all is said and done, no matter how much effort one puts into describing a dream to someone else, nothing can match the firsthand experience of the dreamer. The same is true for the paintings of Chris Berens. No amount of description could possibly compare to standing before the paintings themselves. Barring some amazing technological breakthrough straight out of the pages of a science fiction novel, this beautiful work might just be the closest we’ll get to experiencing someone else’s dreams.

If you’re anywhere near Seattle, WA. in October of this year, you’ll have an opportunity to do just that at the Roq la Rue gallery.


See more of Chris Berens’s work at his website. Blondie’s new album “Panic of Girls,” for which Berens provides the cover art, will be released next month.


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  1. Your quotation attribution is a little misleading. In fact, it was not “a writer for NYC Art Calendar,” it was a press release from his last show copied and pasted at Fecal Face. Just for accuracy’s sake.


  2. Corrected. Thank you for the tip! By the way, the incorrect attribution was my fault, not Maika’s. Apologies all around.

  3. WOW!
    What nice Berens article!
    You really captured his magic in words.
    I’m reading it again and again.
    thanks so much


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