"Thirty Two," 2009
As far as my artistic tastes go, I prefer photographers who think like painters, and painters who think like photographers. Canadian artist Chris O'Hoski falls into the latter category, although to me, it doesn't appear he's really trying to do anything revolutionary with his unique style. His work is revolutionary because he isn't really trying to be.
This is what is so refreshing about O'Hoski's straightforward, stripped-down portraits: O'Hoski, who's still quite young in years, already has built up a visual repertoire brimming over with the self-assuredness of an artist whose eyes have seen many more decades than his.
Nobody's Home, 2010
While I'm no art critic, and refuse to write in the ubiquitous language known to heretics as "Artspeak," O'Hoski's works meet my crucial test for excellence, better known as "I know what I like." Ultimately, this is an artist's highest accomplishment, because once you take away his artist's statement, gallery contacts, and resume, if his work fails to instill any sort of genuine emotion in the viewer, then what is the point anyway?
O'Hoski's ongoing series, Hypnagogia, takes place in that hallucinatory state between waking hours and sleep. O'Hoski cites fascination of this inspiration for his paintings beginning in his early teenaged years. Based upon his works, he must be one of those people who dream in black-and-white, perhaps sepia-toned. By limiting his use of color in his works, his stress on light and shadow comes to the fore, although his subtle use of shadows hearkens more to the German Expressionist cinema of Murnau and Lang than still photography.
Seventies movies seem to be another inspiration, even if subconsciously. One portrait, in particularly, Thirty two, seems like an homage to Martin Scorsese's anti-hero Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, or Charles Bronson's iconic vigilante, Paul Kearsey, in Death Wish. Yet, even these stark visuals are communicated forthrightly, without relying on "campy" "referencing" all too common in today's art scene.
O'Hoski has exhibited throughout his native Ontario, and New York. I discovered his work through a friend who subscribes to his feed on Facebook. She being a follower of today's Gothic artists, I readily saw such an influence in O'Hoski's work, although it's subtle. He seems more influenced by Albrecht Duerer than Marilyn Manson.
Untitled, number eight, 2010
And yet, an artist cannot merely be reduced to whatever his influences may be, or inferred by others as being. In Untitled, number eight, as an art lover, I can readily infer a touch of Picasso's portrait of his sister. But, I don't see Picasso; I see Chris O'Hoski. His particular style may be an admixture of many different visual, cultural, and emotional elements, but what makes that style powerful and unique is that those elements are subordinated to the integrity of his overall vision, which grabs the viewer and holds his interest through its striking, monochromatic, look into the artist's passions and penchants. Quite akin to music, O'Hoski's paintings have the ability to communicate directly with the viewer's emotions, without need of being translated intellectually. In this day and age, that's a rare and welcome talent.
All images reproduced courtesy of artist Chris O'Hoski. They remain the sole property and are solely copyrighted by Chris O'Hoski. They may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.