Behind the Creative Mirror, artist Chris Pemberton
November 20, 2017
Words & Photos: Helene Ravlich
“There’s so much creativity coming out of this city all of the time, it’s just awesome to be amongst it.”
An electrician by trade, the enigmatic Chris Pemberton is also a creator of art and writer of books. A resident of Sydney, Australia as of November 2016, he moved to the Antipodean creative hot spot after years of travelling the globe and making hurried trips home to New Zealand. The reason? “I couldn’t wait to be a part of the creative community over here,” he says without hesitation, “I wanted the opportunity to really grow in a bigger scene and I’m a huge fan of events here like Vivid and Sculpture by the Sea. There is so much creativity coming out of this city all of the time, it’s just awesome to be amongst it.”
Chris himself is probably best known in New Zealand for specializing in projects that combine electricity and art, namely the Art Meets Electrical exhibition that saw him upcycle pieces from his day job and turn them into sculpture. “At one stage I placed a table in Auckland’s Aotea Square that had solar panels built into it so people could charge their phones,” he explains, “then at night it would dance with LED lights. It was a lot of fun and people really seemed to enjoy it.”
After a few years of creating in New Zealand he left for “my big OE, grabbing a couple of Icebreaker merinos and jumping on a plane”. His journey took him to New York City and the Burning Man Festival; and then to a small town on the West Coast of Mexico where he wrote a book from a room overlooking the ocean.
“I hope the work I am doing will inspire people to unlock the door to a world of their own creativity.”
He found a Judo Sensei, who he trained with and worked for training some of the other, less experienced members of the dojo. “I can’t live without doing Judo every day so that was a huge bonus,” he says, “and it meant I had free accommodation and time to keep exploring.”
After almost a year in Mexico Chris found himself back in Auckland, New Zealand for a brief time and put in motion a creative idea that had formed during his travels. Called Creative Mirror, it's the work of Pemberton and American art therapy student, Bri Basco. Envisaged as a series of art events happening around the world, it sees chosen artists call on a family member to co-create a piece of art. To maximize creativity, the two candidates are briefed that the object is from a parallel universe where anything is possible. They're not allowed to view the other half until it's completed by their family member, and vice-versa. In the exhibition the two pieces are reunited and revealed alongside original art for sale. “The moment when they both line up is everyone’s favorite part and is usually quite magical,” says Chris. “What we have found so far is that sometimes the professional artist completes the drawing in a quite predictive beautiful way, while the person who isn’t practiced at drawing does a really interesting creative piece, proving you don’t need to be an artist to be creative.” Throughout his travels, Pemberton provided artists he met with the tools to participate in the Creative Mirror experiment, which added to the diversity of the final exhibition.
“We’re looking for true creativity rather than technical skill as our goal is to prove you don’t have to be the best person with a pen or a paint brush to be truly creative.”
The first Creative Mirror exhibition took place at Thievery Studios in Auckland, New Zealand within the artistic hub of Karangahape Road, a street where Pemberton had previously run another popular photography blog, Humans of K Road. The next Creative Mirror event is due to open in Sydney on November 24. After that, the pair will take the project to New Orleans for what's rumored to be a final outing. “The Sydney show will be bigger than the one we held in Auckland,” Chris explains, “mainly because this time around, the artists are coming to us. We're looking for true creativity rather than technical skill as our goal is to prove you don’t have to be the best person with a pen or a paint brush to be truly creative.”
If that wasn’t enough, Pemberton has also started a workshop called The Crisp Creative Club that, in line with Creative Mirror’s vision, welcomes all artists and non artists. Charged with synergy and serendipitous connections, each week begins with Chris or another artist teaching one of their favorite techniques, while the rest of the session is just play. “So far we've used an array of exciting up-cycled canvases” says Pemberton. “It's great, we have girls learning how to use a power tool, and everyone walks away with arty and practical skills to help them move forward in their new creative practices.”
Chris admits that he himself didn’t last long in high school art class, “or in school itself, if I’m going to be honest! I hope the work I'm doing will inspire people to unlock the door to a world of their own creativity.”