Chris Hubley (http://chrishubley.com/) is a Bristol-based artist who has broken the wall of the usual half-interested scrolling on the social media with his project “Man Cunt – Intimate self portraits of a transgender man”. Chris is a transgender man and his painting works are currently focused on trans and queer subjects, the most important of them: himself. He’s well aware of the centrality of his experience as a trans man in his artistic discoveries – the last one is properly: painting – and one of his goals is also to contribute to the building of a network of trans artists. The first occasion to see the works produced by some amazing Trans artists coming from across the UK has been Trans/Forms (https://www.facebook.com/transformsbristol), a series of art, performance and music events organized by Chris Hubley at the Hamilton House in Bristol to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, from November 13th to November 26th 2015. In our conversation, Chris introduced me to his artistic world with boldness and sincerity, speaking with generosity about his artistic and personal growth.
– Your background is in needle felted sculptures, but in recent times you began painting, tell us about your artistic itinerary and its evolution.
I’ve always been into crafts, and when I first picked up needle felting I was really drawn in by the simplicity and flexibility of it. I’ve not actually done any needle felting for about a year now, I reached a point where I felt like I’d gone as far as I could with it and felt stuck, so I really needed to do something completely different.
I was inspired by artist friends of mine to start painting instead, and I can see how the years I spent felting has influenced my painting style, and how I tend to use layers of thinned paint to build shade and form rather than mixing paint.
– Your “Man Cunt” project got attention on the web since you first posted the studies. Why as a transgender man you decided to show in such a vivid and realistic way what to many could seem a contradiction, like a “man cunt”?
To me it doesn’t seem like a contradiction at all, in fact it seems totally normal, as it’s my own body. The decision to do the project came from some sort of visceral place – I was on my way to my studio having a bit of an angst about what I was going to do when I got there, and then I thought “fuck it, I just want to paint my cunt!”, so that’s what I did. I’ve learnt that things generally work better for me when I follow these kinds of urges!
The project comes from my increased confidence in my sexuality and sexual expression. I feel a desire to celebrate my sexuality in a public way because it feels like getting to where I am now is something worth celebrating.
I’ll also say that, aesthetically, these paintings aren’t really that realistic – one of the things I like about painting over photography is that you can show your feelings about and relationship with a subject rather than just what it looks like. In the paintings everything is a lot bigger and brighter, more wild and powerful.
– It sounds to me like a “realism of emotions”… so, does the desire of being true to yourself play a role in your imagination?
I think our internal worlds with our emotions and responses are just as real as what we see visually, if not more so. In addition, this is the first time I’ve ever really created work about myself – in the past I’ve always created work about other people’s stories, since I studied graphic design at University, which is all about communicating other people’s stories. It has taken me a long time to even know what stories I want to tell about myself, and I realised that the better way for me to do it is to create what my gut is telling me to and then allow the stories to come from that. In this way it’s impossible for me not to be in touch with myself when I’m making – if I’m not being true to myself the process doesn’t work and I just end up making crap art!
-The vivid colours you use are a huge statement of your renewed sexual confidence, and I perceive a great erotic charm in your works. Is this intentional?
I definitely see these as erotic pieces, and I hope that, amongst a plethora of reactions, people may also be turned on by them! My sexual energy had been very high in the months leading up to making the work, after having been almost non existent for a while before that due to illness, so I’ve definitely been consciously putting that in the work.
– How will this project evolve?
These pieces are studies for a larger painting or paintings – these ones are 10×12 inches and I’d like to do some that are a couple of feet high. Beyond that I never really know how any of my work is going to evolve, I’ll be excited to find out myself! I submitted them to a few art competitions and exhibitions and a lot of people have been asking me about prints so I’ve run a crowd funder to order them.
“Man Cunt” also has connections with another project I’ve started where first I interviewed a friend of mine, who is also trans, about his relationship with his body, and then transposed our conversation into a body painting design and used pictures from that as references for a painting. Again, my aim is to create a portrait of his internal landscape and not just depict his body. The work I published on my website is the first of two, as he has had chest surgery since I made it and I’ll be making an “after” painting to couple it.
(If you’re interested to purchase prints of “Man Cunt” at this link you’ll find all the infos to do it! http://chrishubley.com/man-cunt-prints/ I got mine, and it’s stunning!)