portrait of artist Christopher Constable at the gallery Shoreditch Modern

Combining traditional artistic techniques with a contemporary twist and a pinch of dark humour, Christopher Constable is undeniably an important emerging voice in East London’s creative scene. With introspection and modern life as recurrent themes, Constable creates visually striking paintings and sculptural pieces which are also highly relatable.

Surprisingly, he may not have picked up a brush if it wasn’t for his daughter’s temporary interest in the arts. An engineer by trade, Constable taught himself to paint to an exceptional level, as evidenced by his impressive works currently on show at Shoreditch Modern until March 8th.

Shoreditch Modern had the chance to discuss with him his inspirations and process:

What are the drivers behind your work?

“I would say my ideas come from what I see around me. From my visual exploration of life whether it be getting on the train, going to work, or going out with friends and just observing things… I’d say I’m quite observant. I like to pick up on little stickers and notes written on light poles in the street. I like looking at the finer detail of things, such as graffiti marks on areas where humans usually can’t really get to. I like looking at floor cracks, how the pavement has been done, the colours in the stone… This kind of things inspire me, almost everything inspires me.

Before I start painting, I usually do some sketching, often during my commute. Sometimes I’ll see a message on the wall and think: “That sounds like a really good title”. Then I’ll start thinking of images that connect with that title, and eventually I’ll come away from the initial concept and develop my own ideas.”

How would you say your engineering background influences you as an artist?

“My education as an engineer has made me functional and methodical in the way that I approach things. It has encouraged my mindset to be more solution-based. I always think of a solution, and I can always get to a point when I’m happy with what I’ve made. Obviously, the downside is that I am the opposite of a perfectionist. If I want to finish something, I’ll make sure that I can get it to work, and it doesn’t matter if it’s incorrect or has blemishes. Say, for example, if an eye was slightly off, I might just move the other eye a little. I’m focused on reaching the solution. Then I walk away, I look at it and I’m able to sign it off, basically. I think having that engineering mindset has helped me have that decisiveness. When I say it’s done, it’s done. I’m not going back.”

 

How does it feel when you show your art to others?

“I feel like when I show people my art, it’s almost like I’m showing them my therapy session because that is what art is for me. So, it’s like telling people what I spoke about with my psychiatrist and just letting them see all my inner workings without worrying about criticism.”

painting entitled Conformity by Chris Constable exhibited at the art gallery Shoreditch Modern

What’s the importance of self-portraiture in your work?

“Self-portraiture is important to me because most of my work is about me. My journey into art, in the first place, was more as a form of therapy so a lot of the messages that I see in my art directly apply to me. Obviously through sharing my art with people, I see that they understand and relate to those messages. That makes me feel more comfortable because it shows I’m not the only person that feels and thinks a certain way. We’re all human, so we all share similar experiences and feelings.

Self-portraiture itself is a way of capturing a snapshot of the way that I felt at a certain moment. It’s important for me to put myself in paintings. Some people call it vanity, but I just enjoy trying to replicate myself. I’m quite happy when people say: “It looks like you”, because I try really hard to make it look like myself. And for people to recognise that is actually an achievement for me, almost as much as the rest of the message that I try to put in my works.”

 

What does art mean to you?

“Art for me is peace, really. It’s the moment when I get to talk to myself in a medium other than words. It’s my therapy, it’s my tranquillity, it’s my catharsis. And that’s why I love it so much because this journey of painting is making me feel better every day. So, yeah, I’d recommend everybody to try it!”

Christopher Constable is one of three participating artists in Shoreditch Modern’s group exhibition, Grit & Gloss, which will be open to the public until March 8th 2024. Find out more about the selected artwork by Constable: