Chester Arnold is a San Francisco Bay Area oil painter whose works explore contemporary landscapes. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1952, Chester Arnold spent his formative years in Germany where he studied at Private Teachers in Munich. In the early ‘70s, Chester returned to California and studied at College of Marin in Kentfield, California before earning his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute.
American by birth, but raised in post-war Germany during the formative years of his childhood, Chester Arnold is interested in the capacity of painting to convey the complexities of the human psyche. His compositions present skewed linear perspectives that place the viewer at a remove, above and beyond an unfolding narrative. The romantic beauty of natural landscapes, in part informed by historic master Caspar David Friedrich, is subverted by Arnold’s preoccupation with the detritus of human accumulation.
Chester’s time in Germany exposed him to a European sensibility toward the arts; it was also where he absorbed the deep questions and self-examination that pervaded German culture during those years. He says “I was really attracted to northern Renaissance artists, especially Albrecht Durer, from early on — I’d say from the eighth grade…I saw the possibility of engaging much more deeply, of making art that is reverential in the way that Durer is, and at the same time, woven with the creativity in the individual.” Arnold’s paintings touch on the “inconsequentially of humankind,” and ideas of perspective, which often comes from an imaginary place.
Each of his naturalistic paintings is a scene in the narrative, a juxtaposition of nature and the human presence. Arnold embraces the craft of painting, but eschews traditional, romantic portrayals of the natural environment. He chooses instead to depict the landscape as we encounter it, warts and all. He leads us on an odyssey through entropic litterscapes and canyons carved by excavators and probed by prospectors. He guides us along rivers of asphalt and over mountains of tires, showing us nature’s struggle in the midst of growing human consumption and waste. And he provides glimpses of nature’s resilience, as frogs emerge from the cracked pavement and trees rise above itinerant scatters of trash. Arnold supplies us with a birds-eye view of these scenes, inviting us to transcend the tainted landscape and to restore its natural state.
Arnold’s exhibition history includes Donald Kuspit’s selection of his work for New Old Masters at the National Museum in Poland in 2006, and a major solo exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art.