lisa chandler  artist

artist pins down the crowd

Caroline Crick, The Nelson Mail, 2 February 2012

Mapua artist Lisa Chandler describes herself as a modern-day flaneur. “A flaneur is an urban wanderer; someone who experiences the city by walking through it. The term came about when 19th century cities developed with footpaths, enabling people to walk the streets safely,” says Chandler. “I like to walk the footpaths for the first time in a new place to get a feel for it, and to watch people as they move around. I’m interested in their transition through, and the effect they have on, urban spaces as they pass through them.”

Chandler uses a small camera and parks herself in what she calls non-places to record people as they come and go. “I go to bus stops, train stations, intersections - places people pass through but don’t stop for any length of time. I take photos - maybe every time the lights change at an intersection - to document people as they come and go.

“The photograph is just the starting point. I am not interested in the people as individuals, but in the dynamism of the crowd. We are becoming more of a wandering society, not so rooted in one place. Airports and bus stations are such generic non-places. They only change when people move through them.

“For my graduate show, I worked on large canvases and painted the individual people as they were photographed, and then knocked them back - painted over them to make room for the next person to come through. “I can create my own crowd, take people in and out as I please. I had to learn not to be precious about painting out individual figures, which was hard.

“I liked being in a big city - being anonymous and alone among strangers with my own thoughts and watching the happenings on the street. I can give people stories as they come and go. I love the quote from American writer, Rebecca Solnit, that to be alone in the city, `to walk along silently bearing one’s secrets and imagining those of people one passes, is among the starkest of luxuries’.”

Chandler’s graduate work will be at Reflections Gallery at the World of WearableArt, Nelson, in March. She is now working towards a group exhibition, The Art of Life, which will show at the Academy Galleries in Wellington in March. “I went to Wellington and spent some time photographing people on the street. “I’ll do a series of individual figures and some larger canvases where I can put them together to make my own crowds – a collage of street images with layers of people and movement, some visible, some painted out, so they are there as an under-layer. You can’t see them but I know they were there.”