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Creation and Destruction: Christopher Colville's 'Beyond Reckoning'

photo-eye Gallery Creation and Destruction: Christopher Colville's Beyond Reckoning Alexandra Jo
Colville's most recent series of unique gunpowder generated silver gelatin prints takes his process a step further, using bullet-riddled targets found on-site in the desert to depict images questioning violence and the residue of American volatility.

The explosive fluidity of Christopher Colville’s work is singular in its ability to shift between image and abstraction. His unique process of igniting gunpowder on silver gelatin paper to capture the simultaneous violence and grace of explosions creates images in-flux. His work evokes a multitude of things including formless atmospheric auras, desolate landscapes, fireworks, constellations, cratered lunar surfaces, and now, the human figure.

Beyond Reckoning, Colville’s most recent series of unique gunpowder generated silver gelatin prints takes his process a step further in specificity. For this body of work, Colville takes used and abandoned practice targets found in the open desert where he works in the darkness of night to create his photographs and uses them as templates for the gunpowder explosions that make his work. The resulting images are haunting, often depicting life-sized human silhouettes riddled with bullet holes and surrounded by a dark, smoky haze.  Colville says of the work:

Christopher Colville, Citizen 9, Unique gunpowder generated
gelatin silver print in direct positive paper,
32 x 24.2 inches, Framed with Optium Plexi, $7,650

Beyond Reckoning is the antiphon to a continuous cycle of violence embedded in American culture, reflecting our polarized population. The images are made with targets I have collected from desert hillsides, abandoned by recreational shooters. The targets include commercially produced bulls-eyes, life size human forms, predators, mannequin heads, and wedding photographs as well as more divisive, crudely drawn political caricatures. These objects are cultural relics of a violent era, reduced to delicate lace by the onslaught of gunfire, revealing complex motives of hero fantasies, fear, frustration and hatred.”

The very materials Colville uses (gunpowder, fire, targets, etc.) point to the presence of violence-as-pastime in America’s current gun culture. The series also includes a few digital photographs of targets and metal debris from the shooting sites. This body of work feels almost like a call to action alongside a thorough, emotionally fraught examination of society’s desensitization to bloodshed and human fragility. Here, there is a juxtaposition of creation and destruction, brutality and beauty, which asks audiences to reexamine our society’s relationship to violence as a whole.

Christopher Colville, Wound, Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 30 inches, Edition of 15, $1800

Colville says: “Suspended in a state of wonder and dread, my time in the landscape has shifted from a search for transformative experiences to a reckoning with the residue of American volatility[…] I have spent the last year and a half scouring the land surrounding my home, gathering objects and orchestrating nighttime interventions. Engulfed in billowing smoke, I sift through debris, repeating and refining small explosions, layering violence upon violence with the hope of finding clarity.”

Within this layered violence, audiences are invited to take stock of the psychological aspects involved in firing a gun at a human-shaped target or recognizable photograph of a person. The work brings a new perspective to the casual presence of weapons in American everyday life.

Christopher Colville, Target D10, Unique gunpowder generated gelatin silver print,
16 x 20 inches, Framed with Optium Plexi, $4,300

photo-eye is thrilled to add Beyond Reckoning to our website in two brand new portfolios.

Works in the series can be viewed here and here.

»Read photo-eye's interview with Colville 

All prices listed were current at the time this post was published.

For more information, and to purchase artworks, please contact photo-eye Gallery Staff at:
(505) 988-5152 x 202 or