"But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?"
- Mark Twain
Chilliwack-based artist, Chris Woods, has been critical of consumerism and the spiritual void that is at the core of North American culture. Over the past 15 years, Woods has masterfully exposed shopping malls, fast-food outlets, billboards and car culture in his paintings. He is primarily self-taught and has been labeled a hyper-realist for his alluring, irreverent and challenging portraits of people grappling with the effects of consumer culture. These paintings are both humorous and provocative and make reference to everything from advertising billboards to Christian iconography. Woods' message concentrates on the way that advertising has colonized the popular imagination and that the culture of consumption has become the only culture available to vast numbers of North Americans. Whatever the impact of his paintings, one cannot escape the extraordinary feat in which he has devised and executed his brilliantly conceived series of paintings.
In his current work, SANDSTORM, Chris Woods turns his attention to popular culture with a new and radical exploration of the mega saga Star Wars mythology — but with a bizarre twist. Woods' re-examination of the Star Wars saga is from the perspective of the primary adversary, Darth Vader.
SANDSTORM is based on scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy and examines Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo from Darth Vader's twisted perspective. To Vader, these heroes were actually villains determined to destroy him. With these works Woods asks the questions: What is it that makes a person hero or villain? Is it their actions or is it the person who tells their story? By turning the narrative of the Star Wars trilogy inside out, he is attempting to go beyond the 'good-guy, bad-guy' Hollywood dichotomy. Woods tries to reveal that Vader's history of personal trauma, isolation and abuse stands at the root of an adult who never truly had the chance to choose good over evil.
Darth Vader's journey to the dark side is a meditation on the nature of evil in contemporary times. It also serves as entry point into understanding the many dark forces that can slowly erode and distort the better human qualities we all share as individuals. The paintings on canvas are based on digital 'screen captures' taken from the theatrical releases of the original Star Wars trilogy and the 'deleted scenes' found on the Star Wars: Complete Saga Blu-Ray Box-Set. The title,SANDSTORM, was taken from one of the most famous scenes cut out of the original Star Wars saga. By using deleted scenes, as well as scenes still appearing in the films, Chris Woods offers an alternative narrative for the Star Warsmovies that places us in Darth Vader's black metal boots.
Woods sees the Star Wars trilogy as one of the popular myths of our time, just as French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) saw the Divine Comedy (Dante), the Aeneid (Virgil) and Hamlet (Shakespeare) as the popular myths of his time. In an effort to better express his themes, Woods adopts a looser, more agitated style in order to emulate the storm of anger and confusion that Vader fought through every day. By seeing the events of the Star Warstrilogy from Darth Vader's perspective, Woods is giving us an alternate view on the combined forces and circumstances that may blind any individual, twisting him or her into an 'agent of evil'.
These paintings attempt to chronicle the darkest visions and nightmares that Darth Vader may have suffered in his private moments during the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. Even though we are used to cheering for the heroism of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, to Vader they were mysterious figures that represented the latest in a long line of threats to him and his future. To Vader they are the villains to be feared, hated and destroyed.
- Scott Marsden