The seismic stages of life and how our end-goals change provides the context and energy for Through Birth & Burial, Paul Cristina’s debut solo of dense and haunting mixed media works at Booth Gallery opening January 20th, 2018.

Many people end up lost in materialism, blinded by addictive, instant gratification, while others strive to break out of systematic society, enthralled and energized by creative freedom; in one such piece, a child’s hands dissipate and blur as she flails to escape free of the canvas and become an independent entity. Cristina builds his narratively anxious compositions as if to trap the figures to the canvases they are birthed from, exhibiting how birth and death share the same point in the circle of life.

The show’s title refers to Cristina’s process, in which he takes worn and discarded materials and gives new meaning to them by reinvigorating their purpose. This assembly of densely layered images creates an allure for the works to thrive. Simultaneously built up and drawn down, like street art that has survived through weathering and human alteration, each piece expels an energy that is lost somewhere between life and death. A constant anxiety hangs over the pieces; grey figures lay trapped among pale colors, as if fighting to survive.

Cristina’s works reflect a perception of a human cycle. When we are young we are constantly absorbing information, energized by new ideas, discovery, and the potential for our futures. But as we age within a systematic society, distractions take away energy from forward momentum, and slowly dissipate our lives into purposelessness. Cristina’s process involves a symbiotic relationship of destruction and reconstruction that visualizes figures trapped in a plain world. This exhibition marks a new age of creation for him where techniques and understandings from the past are stripped down and reconfigured into more powerful imagery. Top layers are cut with knives to reveal the histories of the layers beneath.

Paul Cristina is a self-taught artist born in Cleveland, Ohio, now based in Charleston, South Carolina. Cristina has continued to develop his creative sensibilities through the study of books, film, music, people and photographic images. These sources of education continue to inform his work through the experimentation of various style and media. He has also worked several years as a paramedic, which allowed for a stark insight and investigation into the often-disturbing aspects of society and human behavior. This experience involuntarily informs the work and provokes continual contemplation toward the underbelly of life, as we know it.