Chris Succo | Muscle Memory

In Conversation with the Artists ahead of his new Imprint

Written by

Chloe Brown

Photographed by

No items found.

Styled by

No items found.
No items found.

The name Chris Succo could have easily been synonymous with “rock musician” or “photographer,” but instead, and lucky for us, the German abstract artist took his talents to painting. His work strives to break down complexities of the world around us in the most simplistic visual forms. We sat down with Chris to discuss why the most simple things in life are the hardest to capture, the intricacies of the German language, and – of course – his forthcoming book, Muscle Memory, to be published by Distanz in June.

Muscle Memory – the painting series of the same name – was displayed this fall at Meierbach in Dusseldorf, and was on view this spring at Expo Chicago. The varying shades of blacks provoke a blank canvas into a swell of expression. His work is often considered process-based and musically-influenced, and Chris Succo explains how the essence of an artist takes shape in his work.

Are you calling from Germany right now?

Yeah, I'm in Germany. I'm in the studio. Okay. Well, this the office, not the studio, but the studio is next door.

I'd love to hear more about how you started painting. Was this always something that you saw yourself doing? Or is it kind of you slip into it? And early age? Or how did it all go down?

I don't know how this interest really started. But when I was very young, I already did  abstract stuff, just color fields, or, you know, just a little bit different than  the other kids. So I guess that it's just what I have constantly been thinking about, although I've been doing other [projects] too.

I also read that you like rock music, right?

Yeah, I still do it from time to time. It's become more of a hobby, but, in my teens, I really wanted to be a musician. I did photography and sculpture and things like that. But ultimately, painting has always been there. And I realize that this is what I was the most occupied with. Actually, you know, I constantly think of how I would do it? How would it be? How can I do it differently? Or why does it even interest me, you know? It raises much more questions than other things I've done.

That's interesting. I can imagine like performing music, it’s more experiential and cathartic. And then I guess, so is painting. What speaks to you the most about painting? How is it different?

With music? You know, I never really wanted to be good at it. I always liked the Neil Young approach, where you have the first take, right? I never really wanted to learn Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven,” or a guitar solo or anything. I just wanted to pick it up and just [have the] primal feel.

Because it's much more fleeting, I really also love live records. With live recordings, I like to listen to the band, even though they're crap. You know, I like what happens in the moment between a group of people, or even with yourself and an instrument, I liked that moment, which cannot be repeated in a way. But with painting, the thing is, you're creating an object or, or thing that lives in space. And so basically, it is there, and it's not as much the act of getting there. You have to basically say, “Oh, that's finished.” And, people can look at it, you know?

So when you have the idea that a guitar solo can play it, nobody, like recording it, or whatever, it's there. And it's been there. And then in that moment, but it's gone forever. I kind of liked that idea that you witness something, and it's gone. But with painting, or with more permanent [mediums] like film or photography, I like the quest of thinking about the outcome. You're pretty aware that you're making something that has a result.

I feel like it's hard to find those fleeting mediums. We have so much more access to records and data. I think it's a rare thing now, just to witness something and have it exist in that moment, and then just never be seen again. On that note, what's your relationship with social media?

I do Instagram occasionally. I mean, I try not to look at it as much as possible. But, I have to be honest, it's pretty hard not to look at it while you have it on your phone.

Have there been any kind of role models for you that you've followed in terms of your trajectory?

No. That's also the interesting thing about painting in a way, or anything that's recorded or printed or made. I think there's always a history that you know, that you are made aware of. It's hard to look away nowadays. Before social media and the internet got so strong, it was easy not to look at something. Even if you want it or not, you see Picasso or whatever on your phone, because it's shown to you. And I think even like, 15 years ago, it was so much easier to be in your own universe.

You spend time between LA and  Germany; obviously there are different sources of inspiration coming out of those two places. But I’m curious – where do you find that you get the most energy?  

So the question goes back to basically also this idea of “too much.” I have relatives in the States and in England, so I was always more attracted to the English or American music, art or any culture, because I never felt that. I don't have anything against German culture, but I feel that for these time, the types of art forms are very behind. You know, I know, we got Mozart and Bach, and Richter or whatever. But I always felt more close to the American or the English way of doing things. I've been going to the States or to UK since I was very young. And it always excited me. So I think there's more excitement, so I feel more affiliation with those on this the side of the world.

Of course, there is stuff I like here, but I feel more energetic and more curious in the US or UK. [For instance] I love the English language, because...I mean, the German language is beautiful, but only if you understand it really, really well. The English language, and I think, also a lot of American art is very straightforward. And I really like that, to kind of say something with the least amount of trickery around it. Because I think it's the hardest way to do it. To make something really complicated is actually easier. So I always found it more interesting to have less words or use less materials.

Do you feel like that translates into your work?

Yeah, I mean I'm not, I'm not successful with it all the time, but I try. I try to use materials that open a canvas, you know, or bronze or photography, analog photography, stuff that's been there forever. And I believe that there's a reason for it because it has limitless possibilities. I'm interested in new technology and things like that, but more out of curiosity. I still believe that the old or the traditional materials have something [singular] about them.

That's an interesting balance to strike between, taking advantage of these new technologies that are emerging materials that have been used for a long time.

And also with technology always comes the thinking of how. Like, 3D scanning for sculptures or something is brilliant, you know, but you need to have the sculpture. So if you can generate it on a computer, then you need to make it out of clay or some traditional material. And printing on Canvas is fantastic, but you have to have a workaround. You have to have a computer and shit. And in the end, it's just paint. It's more economical, and it also doesn't hinder your thought process. There's no machine in between.

What are you looking forward to at the moment? What's on the horizon?

I have my second monograph coming out with Distanz in June, which I'm super happy about.  It's roughly 300 pages. So we are doing a follow up. This book juxtaposes my photographs and studio images with h installation shots and images of the work. It's called Muscle Memory and is coming out in June. I'm excited about it.

No items found.
No items found.
Chris Succo, Flaunt Magazine, Muscle Memory, Chloe Brown