Umbra is the darkest part of a shadow, specifically the area of the earth or moon experiencing the total phase of an eclipse. In his paintings of suburban homes, the umbra Christopher Zanko employs is dragged like a sundial across the surface, an abstraction that pierces the formal character and messes with the legibility of the image. By carving and chiseling line and pattern, Zanko nods to the production qualities of the print – the play with negative and positive space and the dynamic between thick line and planar shapes. The printmaking quality suggests the multiple, much as the buildings selected are houses of a type, reproduced with variation across suburbs.
The drafted line, textured mark and dramatic shadow are synthesised into a language that suggests the architectural rendering of the mid-century modern. However Zanko is observing these buildings decades later with his work noting the layers of redesign that have occurred over time – a new ramp or driveway, the historical plantings that buffer the hard edges of these structures.
An initial drafted drawing is made on the MDF surface. Then there is the introduction of tools that carve into this surface, responding to the textured veneers of these homes. This literal carving out of the structure brings qualities of process work and time to Zanko's subjects. He has selected these buildings for their formal qualities and their persistent presence. They are sculptural entities in the landscape, vulnerable to changing circumstance and to future augmentation or demolition. To carve is to set an image down with a level of density that ensures permanence, whether the existing structure remains or is destroyed.
By reproducing these buildings as paintings, Zanko converts them from their function to an architectural representation. The form of these houses historically communicated the cultural taste and wealth of the resident. The shadows cast across their facades suggest an encroachment of unconscious forces that interrupt this social communication. In Against Architecture, writer Denis Hollier states that "architecture is society's authorized superego" (1). Zanko understands this, presenting his response to these signs in an extension of the pop tradition that both celebrates the formal vocabulary of modernism and digs into the psychology of it. By introducing the shadow across these pop images, an unconscious opposite emerges, suggesting psychological states which are hidden from view and literally behind drawn curtains.
Zanko graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts, Wollongong University with Distinction in Painting (BCA). He was a finalist in the Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award and winner of the Gongcrete Art Prize. He has shown in numerous group exhibitions including at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Project Contemporary Art Space, Wollongong. This is his first solo show at The Egg & Dart.
(1) Denis Hollier, Against Architecture, trans. Betsy Wing (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), pp.22–23.