‘Craft solves questions; art asks them,’ according to contemporary artist Channing Hansen. Living and working in his hometown of Los Angeles, Channing is both a typical and atypical artist. Typical in that his mind is always working, constantly being reflected in his prolific art practice that pans painting, sculpture, video, performance and - the atypical part - knitting. He took up the craft over 10 years ago as a way to keep himself occupied outside of the studio, and now this has culminated in a remarkable body of work that marries knitting with the very structure of his DNA.
On now at the Stephen Friedman gallery in London, Channing’s first ever solo exhibition in the UK exclusively features his hand-knitted textiles, each stretched over wooden frames and hung on the gallery walls as if they were paintings. Unwieldy, even messy looking, these pieces undermine their own appearance as they were in fact structured according to computer-generated algorithms. During making, Hansen followed these ‘instructions’ for changes in colour, fibre and type of knit, without knowing what the work would look like once finished. The codes that he used reflect the makeup of his DNA, and Channing thinks of these algorithms as ‘Fluxus scores’. ‘My Fluxus leanings compel me to think of this transfer of energy as an on-going function of art/life,’ he explains, ‘not as a performance, even if you happen to see me do it in public.’
Channing is known to take a great interest in all aspects of the craft, and uses wool from rare breeds of sheep raised on a farm in Idaho such as ‘California Variegated Mutant’, ‘Teeswater’ and ‘Wensleydale’. An extremely labour intensive process, he skirts, washes, dyes, blends and spins all of his wool himself. The organic knitted forms are then stretched over wooden frames that remain visible through the knit. The size and composition is revealed only in the final stage, when the work is pulled flat.
Channing’s work is celebrated for being vibrant and seductive, and he achieves this effect by using a combination of ‘ecru’ and dyed wool in highly unusual combinations. For this show at the Stephen Friedman gallery, he has incorporated phosphorescing polymers into the yarn for the first time, making some of the colours in these new works appear florescent. Channing also develops pigments with a scientist friend who works for NASA, drawing on his keen interest in science to enrich his practice, and further proving himself to be one prolific maker; an artist whose thirst is for knowledge, no matter what form it takes.
Channing Hansen, 8 June - 29 July 2017
Stephen Friedman, Gallery Two: 11 Old Burlington Street London W1S 3AQ