Christine Alfery’s current series “Gears” has gone by many names. For this artist, theprocessof exploring a concept usually takes precedence over the final result.
Much like her paintings, layer upon layer has been added - each layer adding depth and texture to the initial idea. As she explains "I just let the work travel and become something else that is just as wonderful - I let the work become what it wants to become not what I want it to become."
In this series, Alfery explored the apparent dichotomy of natural creation versus man-made design. The artist discovered these forces are two sides of the same coin – you cannot have one without the other. The key is balance, and this is found in creativity.
To learn more the Gears series, we asked the artist about her inspiration for these new works – many of which have been part of juried exhibitions, received awards, or have already been collected.
The series began with a work titled “Creative Contraptions”.
When explaining the inspiration for this first work, the artist said “I started thinking about the gears . . . I’ve wanted to talk about the contrast between mechanical designing and creative thinking – there is a huge difference. I wanted to see how I would actually portray that in an actual piece of artwork.”
Detail of Spiky Spring from Creative Contraptions
Looking closely at the detail of this artwork you see coils with small lines representing springs and gears. The artist explained how lines in the work represent the connections you find in a computer or a machine.
Detail of Critters and Gears from Creative Contraptions
The artist’s struggle to express this new idea is apparent as you explore the detail of the work – circles with spiky lines representing gears are intertwined with the familiar organic and natural curved lines and “critters” that bring the artist’s familiar creative spirit back into the artwork.
Detail of the Figure in Creative Contraptions
The exploration of the machine concludes in the lower left corner of the artwork where the artist explains “as I was finishing it up I thought, okay, I definitely did not solve that problem. These are too organic – it is definitely the other side of what is mechanical. I thought okay – that would explain why those critters started showing up… So I put a person in here and it became my creative thoughts and my creative thinking . . . Maybe your mind is more linear than mine but this is how my mind works”.
Alfery’s comments about "Creative Contraptions" hint at the next evolution in the series – which did not come for almost a year. “Don’t get me wrong, I was thinking about it the whole time” she said – but during that time her artwork focused on the natural power of water. Gears appeared in various works, but it wasn’t until “The Scale, The Machine, The Natural” that the series took off again.
The series became “Nature versus Fabrication” or “Man – Made versus Nature”. Alfery began to explore how the concepts seem in contradiction yet are intertwined – you can’t have one without the other.
Her exploration utilized new markings, new methods, and new materials. She learned to work with the hard surface of clay board and utilized rulers and stencils to force herself out of her familiar organic rounded lines. She described the new marks representing man-made design as “angled, patterned, determined, controlled . . . a gear”.
The contrast of the natural power of water versus man-made fabrication came to life in “Building A Dam, Changing The Natural Flow”. While the idea of balancing opposing forces was suggested by “The Scale”, this new work “The Dam” gave the idea of balance new emphasis. The artist explained the series “doesn’t say that one is better than the other, it just says that there should be a balance between the two. Sometimes when one becomes more powerful than the other, things start going wacko. I promote a balance between the two . . . it is about controlled design versus natural design”.
Detail of Controlled Design vs Natural Design in "The Dam"
“We have the man-made pattern, and we have Christine’s pattern – and they are two very different things . . . I love the contrast between the two”.
To hear Christine talk about this work in her own words, click on the video link here:
The name of the series changed to “Balance” as other works followed.
Life is Like A Box of Chocolates by Christine Alfery
To The Moon and Back III by Christine Alfery
The artist began to realize that the opposing forces in her works were two sides of the same coin. “We need both in the world. The key is balance – and creativity offers that balance . . . Creativity is the symbiosis that brings together the epistemological and the mystical.”
The Key by Christine Alfery
Balance brought everything back together – and brought it home for the artist. The world cannot be defined solely by the external and objective, nor defined solely by the subjective individuality. The artist explained “We must respect difference, value new ideas and innovation, and realize that balance is the key. It is not one or the other – it is both.”
The Real and The Imagined by Christine Alfery
Having come to this conclusion, the artist realized that in the world of the pandemic, focus on technology and science has left her world feeling a bit unbalanced. But this is nothing new – the life of the artist is always a bit unbalanced on the side of creativity.
The Pull of Gravity by Christine Alfery
For now, the name of the series has gone back to the original title “Gears” - the idea that began it all. The artist continues to create artworks exploring the opposite side of the coin that, while seemingly unfamiliar, is an intricately connected and necessary part of the world.
Engineered Spaces by Christine Alfery
As the artist continues to explore these ideas, the artworks of the Gears Series have proven very popular. Numerous works have won awards, been accepted into juried exhibitions, and have already been collected - even as you can still smell the paint drying.
We look forward to seeing what comes next in this series - other works, or perhaps another name for the concept. Who knows, maybe she'll paint over the whole thing and start over again. It certainly would not be the first time. For this artist, the process is often more important than the outcome.