What I appreciate most about the work of Charles Munch is his commitment to the pattern. By pattern I mean both the literal graphic design, the fills and gradations that populate his paintings, as well as the long pattern of environmental subject matter. Each piece feels like a crystal clear window into an ideology. Munch has taken extreme care with what is allowed to remain in the work, and has stripped away all extraneous detail. What remains feels most reminiscent of an intersection of folk art, byzantine masterpiece and political cartoon. The narrative is portrayed front and center, but without any concern of feeling trite. In an age of irony it’s so refreshing to see an artist display himself as genuine.
His painting has changed a lot through the years, and I’m thoroughly impressed with the transformation. In the 70s he had begun to establish himself as a realist under Willard Midgette, laboring over detail, form and light. It’s fascinating to see the detail become this newfound attention to exclusion.
In his piece “Salvation” a man and a woman carry a deer on a stretcher away from the edge of a woods while a plane flies in the opposite direction. Munch does not let the graphic quality of his work simplify the way the characters are staged. The deer is contorted and exhausted, its head drooped back off the edge of the stretcher. Maybe it’s in all of the staging that I find the narrative. I can’t pin down the play we’re witnessing, but we can find enough hints for the major points. Nature has been inflicted a grave wound, and it’s our responsibility to mend it. Human-kind and its place in the natural world are the stories he’s most interested in telling, and he’s found a unique and compelling way to do so.