Charles Christopher Hill, A Minimal Image On Complicated Ground By Neada Jane
“Everybody wants to be a Sunday painter.” Artist Charles Hill is sitting at his sundrenched kitchen table. At ease in the familiar realm of his Venice, California home, he laments the change that is unfolding around him – a burgeoning real estate market has sent young artists in retreat from the area. It’s the romance of the local art history that drives prices up but ensures his favorite local art supply stores will remain, he reasons.
Hill is part of the generation that imbued Venice with its storied art narrative.
Hill is part of the generation that imbued Venice with its storied art narrative. Now a world away from the crime-riddled but charmingly progressive scene it was “about 15 or 20 years ago,” Hill still finds time for dinner at least once a week with artist and neighbor Ed Moses, one of California’s most prominent names in art. This is a tradition forged of a friendship decades long. Moses along with fellow California luminaries Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Kenneth Price are some of the names Hill mentions as his greatest influences. It was under some of these artists that he studied at UCLA, where decades later he went on to also teach.
It is from these ripe beginnings that Hill distinguished himself as a uniquely Californian artist – a matter of circumstance that evolved into a lifelong devotion. Above all, it seems to be the light of the Golden State that he loves. The rooms throughout his home and studio, where canvas and newsprint artworks tell the story of a life’s work are stacked or hung on walls in modular form, have large-scale windows and skylights to flood the space with light. Contemplating the art he creates, Hill explains "I have a minimal image on very complicated ground."
By default, Hill thinks about color under the glare of Californian sun. Only when he knows his work is bound for Europe does he adjust, for the “harsh reality” of the gallery lighting they favor on the continent. The echo of the Golden State rings loud in his work and his home, a refuge in the shifting cultural landscape of Venice. To have lived anywhere else, Hill believes he would have created different art altogether, “I probably would have been looking more at abstract expressionist work when I was younger, instead of the more theoretical, sculptural work of California.”
There is a peaceful gratitude from Hill when talking about the life he has lived and the surroundings that he calls home. The space he has had to think, the community that amplified his ambition – even during his years at art school he was already putting together a body of work, actively reaching out to art dealers – has taken him through 15 years of painting only in red, black and white (“the colors that I hear loudest”) and beyond, through eras of varnished paint on canvas to his current relish in tribal symbolism on newsprint.
He talks fondly of a love for travel and the inspiration he brings home after time on the road. Pondering on the life he has cultivated and his love for this corner of the world, he states simply, “This is my place.”