3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD, 21224
On view: AUG 24 - SEP 28
Reception: AUG 24 | 6-8PM | FREE
Basic Martial Arts Technique and Training Workshop w/ Chris and Dereke Batten: SEP 14 | 1-3PM | FREE
Gallery Talk: SEP 21 | 3-5PM | FREE
The intersection of Creative Alliance resident artist Christopher Batten’s passions - fine arts and martial arts are on display through the portraits and abstract work in No Play Fighting. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Batten demonstrated a profound interest in the visual arts from the age of four. At 8, he began his journey as a martial artist. This exhibition exposes Batten’s dual interests in both fine arts and martial arts, while at the same time calling attention to how fights led both inside and out of the ring are equally visceral.
He has witnessed family members, colleagues, and close friends, both win and lose fights against cancer. He’s also keenly aware homelessness throughout Baltimore, particularly when he commutes to work in the morning and observes the infamous “lean” experienced by people engaged in personal battles with addiction. As a teacher, he has witnessed some of his students fight battles outside the classroom that trigger conflicts inside the classroom. In his portraits, Batten addresses the emotions of Baltimoreans who experience internal and external battles on the daily.
Contrary to painting, physical fighting enabled Batten to compartmentalize and even suppress his emotions. In the heat of battle, fighters are forced to think their way out of predicaments; therefore, emotions must be controlled. When Joan Waltemath, Director of the LeRoy E Hoffberger School of Painting, suggested he tap into his martial arts training as a means of expanding his repertoire of gestures in his painting, he was completely opposed. At the time, he reserved painting for his feelings and fighting for rational thinking - merging the two seemed to be a betrayal. However, when he tapped into his martial arts training, it took him on a subconscious journey into abstraction. Subsequently, he worked on each piece in timed intervals like rounds of a fight. By expanding his viewpoint of fighting, he was able to combine the physical, rational, and emotional facets of himself in his paintings and nurture his abstract and portrait work simultaneously.
Batten writes, “Throughout my time as a fighter, all of my greatest lessons came from the one thing fighters dread - getting hit. It isn’t until one accepts getting hit that they acquire the fearlessness needed to be a successful fighter. All of us like to be the victor, but the true fighter in an individual can only emerge the moment their opponent catches him or her with a good shot.”
Batten acknowledges that we are all combatants fighting for and/or against something. The most critical of these battles is the one that takes place inside us on a daily basis when we reflect on how our experiences have affected us throughout our lives. No Play Fighting compels viewers to ask themselves: what am I fighting for?