From BorderCrossings
Issue NO.103, Pertaining to the series "Matters of Denial"

Chef D'excess

By Robert Enright

    "The impetus to make this work comes from a really deep-seated pessimism and cynicism about the world", is what Calgary painter Chris Flodberg says about his over-the-top still life and cityscape combinations. "Initially I did Breakfast in America, where I had this spread of food on a table in front of what looked to be a Middle Eastern city - Bagdhdad or Cairo.  That painting was really important because it grew out of my own anxieties, fears and anger about what was going on in the Middle East just after the World Trade Center stuff happened.  There is a part of me that doesn't believe there actually is a place for my work in the future.  So then I think I'm making work for the fire."

    Flodberg's painted world is as rich with ambiguity as his talbe is rich with food.  He sets up the still life scenarios he paints, a process that is not without its own set of complications.  "It's so wasteful.  I'm spending two or three hundred dollars on this food and much of it ends up in the garbage.  I mean those are the things I want - wine and cake and parties - but I feel like I'm not allowed to even indulge the idea of wanting them because of guilt.  We're consuming the hell out of the planet and for everything that we have, somebody has paid a price.  So I just can't paint a pretty food still life.  There's all this guilt and competition and struggle."

    Flodberg's tables are a combination of still life from the Golden Age of Dutch painting crossed with the confections of Wayne Thiebaud, set against landscapes, the origins of which could be Baroque, Precisionist, Ash Can or Impressionist.  They combine the sumptuous with the abject, the delectable with the disgusting, a range of responses that Flodberg encourages.  "From across the room, you think there's this beautiful spread of food and you're drawn to it.  It's all the things you want and you want to be rewarded, you want to be indulged.  But then what do you see?  A pile of fish heads, things are dirty, things are half-consumed and it's all kind of gross.  You can't stomach it anymore but you want to at the same time.  So there's this combination of desire and disappointment."

    What Chris Flodberg paints is a reflection of how he views the world.  He is a fin de siecle painter who still believes in pleasure; he paints his endgame with a claret finish.  "That whole dualistic, self-contradictory thing is a big part of my personality and my nature as a creative person embodies the confusion.  It's a mess.  As human beings, we're not monks and we're not the opposite.  We're a combination of the two with desires going in each direction."