“I believe the images are from the world of spirit, I think they lie in some sort of eternal memory and the act of drawing ‘unlocks’ them so they can appear in the world.” Chris Neate
From an early age the ability to draw came naturally to Chris Neate and in 1975, without any prior tuition, he was accepted onto the art degree course at Leeds Polytechnic. It was no ordinary art school, but a place where students were encouraged to be experimental rather than restricted by traditional techniques. It suited Chris who had the freedom to develop his art any way he wanted. It also gave him the opportunity to become involved in the burgeoning avant-garde music scene where he performed as a DJ and illustrated the record covers for emerging bands including Softcell’s ‘Tainted Love’ for Marc Almond, a fellow art student.
After this youthful burst of creativity Chris’ life took a completely different direction. He began working in hospitals and social care services looking after the elderly. He drew sporadically, and when bored by the hours spent in management meetings he started to doodle. He discovered that these distracted drawings would yield unexpectedly complex images amongst the jotted lists of names and numbers. This ability to draw automatically continued and grew in intensity until Chris felt the need to draw everyday.
He started by experimenting with calligraphy brushes on thin paper, making abstract marks, which freed up any artistic stiffness and allowed his creativity to flow naturally. More recently he began using ultra fine black or white marker pens on board, which enable a higher degree of intricacy. He works for several hours a day and often takes two weeks to complete each picture. He fills each board, which recently has been prepared from a spectrum of colours, with a mesh of tiny circles and flowing lines interspersed with floating structures that are reminiscent of sea creatures, plants, jewels or microscopic organisms. Some works are totally abstract while others have hundreds of faces staring out in all directions. In one, a large figurative form can be seen anchoring the composition to the edge of the picture plane – a static form grounding the swirling lines of flowing energy surrounding it.
When working Chris has no preconceived idea of what the image will be. The act of drawing is a calming process and the hours spent drawing in such minute detail feel effortless: “I think that I get some degree of comfort from drawing and if I do it intensely then I can get into quite a meditative state and ‘lose’ myself in the process. It’s probably at these times that the works flows most naturally.” He admits that it is also the time when unexpected things happen and sometimes experiences a sense of a being connected to a psychic or guiding force, an awareness undoubtedly helped by his previous studies of trance mediumship at The College of Psychic Studies, as well as esoteric soul healing at Glastonbury.
“They are close but as if shaded by gauze or a veil, unseen. They exist in our lives and the life of the world. They surround us and are within us. They move in every living being and every particle of the universe. Released. Flowing. Dancing. Transcending the material world, they drift in the light. As stars untold in number each is individual and joined to us by a gossamer thread of passing time. Streaming through the endless heavens in glorious light. They guide us. They glow.”
Chris doesn’t surrender completely to this guiding force, he always tries to maintain overall control of the artwork and decides when a picture is ‘completed‘ and feels balanced. Chris acknowledges that sometimes his state of mind can affect the process. If he is preoccupied it can lead to more dense and heavy areas forming which can make it difficult to find the picture’s equilibrium.
Balance is an important aspect of Chris’ life as well as his art. Whilst living for years in a converted Victorian stable in Deptford, London he surrounded himself with salvaged Victorian objects and furniture. If he sensed an energy or atmosphere out of kilter when he came across an item he would take it home. He felt that by placing it amongst the other items he’d collected the balance was restored. It was an interesting place to live and Chris remembers feeling comfortable living with such a strong connection to the past.
He also feels a bond to people that have lived before us, through their remaining energy. He describes his artworks, with their lace-like appearance, as having an association with the past traditions of crocheting and lacemaking, and this in turn connects him to the people who created them – stitching them together like souls sewn into the mesh of time. He believes that through the detailed woven threads of the artworks you can see the veiled presence of the spirit world. His great-grandmother was a court dressmaker who passed on her skills to his grandmother and his art is a contemporary manifestation of his ancestors and their skills.
Chris’ art has mostly been a private affair, but the last decade has seen his talent and distinctive style catch the attention of the art world with invitations to exhibit in the UK and abroad. His work is available for sale from the Jennifer Laurent Gallery.
2022 To All the Kings who have no Crowns at the Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate 2021 Strange Things Among Us, College of Psychic Studies, London
2021 New Artists, Ricco|Maresca Gallery, New York
2021 Kindred Spirits at the Jennifer Laurent Gallery 2020 Monochromatic Minds: Lines of Revelation, Candid Arts, London
2020 Outsider Art Fair , NY with the Jennifer Laurent Gallery
2019 Art & Spirit:Visions of Wonder at the College of Psychic Studies, London
2018 Outsider Art Fair , NY with the Jennifer Laurent Gallery
2017 Blinko & Neate: Unlocking Worlds, Pop Up London
2016 Encounters with the Spirit World, College of Psychic Studies, London
2013 Bold Vision at the Julian Hartnoll Gallery, London
2010 Museum of Everything #2 at Tate Modern, London