The urban landscape paintings of Christian Marsh take us on adventure around the world, from Paris to Perth and beyond. While on his travels, Marsh uses photography in a documentary manner, fixing compositional information, lighting and moving objects. Not only does Marsh capture the natural and architectural beauty of these places, he also brings narrative to his compositions with genuine human emotion. We have a chat with Marsh about his work and discuss his inclusion of human presence.
What is your artistic process?
Once I have the reference material, which involves taking numerous photographs of the subject, a final image is determined. Then a basic outline of the composition is transferred to the canvas with the aid of a projector. Every painting is different in terms of where I begin. If there is a definitive sky line then I may roughly block in areas of colour. With every layer of colour I usually add more detail and more definition, until I am happy with the end result.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Self-belief, passion and determination.
When did you begin painting? Did you study art at degree level?
Painting is something that I have always done, although it was originally watercolours. Oil paint gave me more freedom and amazing depth. I studied at the University of Wolverhampton, gaining a BA in Illustration and then went on to complete a Master’s degree.
"Kings Park, Perth" - Oil on canvas, 70 x 170cm
Has your work evolved since your early days?
With every new painting my work evolves naturally, new subjects, new ideas and new techniques adding subtler narratives that open to the audience.
The digital camera brought many changes in the way hyperrealists work. As technology continues to evolve, do you see any new “tool” having the same impact?
Technology will always offer something new, so who knows? The digital camera enabled me to capture a snapshot of a fleeting moment and to me, that is the most important thing.
Who is your favourite artist and why?
Claude Monet. My two favourite paintings are The Magpie and the Church at Varengeville. Both have an amazing sense of light and to me are very evocative.
It has been said that you include human presence in your cityscapes to add an emotive quality or a narrative. Can you tell us a bit about this?
The inclusion of a human presence and subtle narrative is important for the overall atmosphere of the location, as well as inviting interaction with the viewer to speculate on their activity.
"Notre Dame, Paris" - Oil on canvas, 150 x 200cm
Your paintings usually depict a bright and sunny day, rather than a miserable rainy day. Is there a reason for this alacrity?
The treatment of light is different in every country and my aim is to capture that. Light adds more interest, clarity and helps describe surfaces and textures. I wouldn’t rule out a miserable rainy day, if the right idea came along.
Do the cities you paint fit around your travels or does your work determine where you travel to?
Both. Usually I have a preconceived idea of the general backdrop that interests me. It’s always good idea to have a camera at the ready!
What have you been working on at the moment?
My latest painting is set in Cannes, France and it includes a yacht called Altair at the Panerai classic yacht challenge. It was interesting to see the communication between the crew and the dedication in keeping the yachts in such immaculate condition. It was an extremely detailed and complicated subject and has been the longest painting I have worked on, although I am very happy with end result.
"Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, Cannes" - Oil on canvas, 60 x 150cm