Chris Ashley is an artist, writer, and educator living in Oakland, California.
Contact [ca+AT+chrisashley+DOT+net] for information about exhibitions and sales.
- Look, See is a blog where HTML drawings are posted daily since January 2008. HTML drawings from 2003-2007 are archived on a previous blog.
- See separate website for paintings & drawings.
- Recent writing is on archived Look,See, and past writing is at the previous blog.
- Some Walls is a curatorial and writing art project.
- BA in Fine Arts from California State University, Hayward
- Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, CSU Hayward
- Masters in Education (coursework complete), Dominican University, San Rafael
Returning, 2004-05, oil on canvas, four panels, 16 x 12 inches each, 16 x 54 inches installed
Exhibits and Presentations
- “Faction, ” ArtStreet: Studio D, The University of Dayton, October 3 – 27 . 2011, Curated by Jeffrey Cortland Jones: Chris Ashley . Oakland . California – Paul Behnke . Brooklyn . New York – Ashlynn Browning . Raleigh . North Carolina – Timothy B. Buckwalter . Albany . California – Ron Buffington . Chattanooga . Tennessee – Marc Cheetham . Upper Saddle River . New Jersey – Brian Cypher . Burlington . Washington – Scott Grow . Las Vegas . Nevada – Matthew Langley . New York . New York – Daniel Levine . New York . New York – David T. Miller . Ambler . Pennsylvania – Lorri Ott . Cleveland . Ohio – Carrie Patterson . Leonardtown . Maryland – Jon Poblador . Phoenix . Arizona – Danielle Riede . Indianapolis . Indiana – Don Voisine . Brooklyn . New York – Ken Weathersby . Montclair . New Jersey – Michael Wille . Normal . Illinois – Douglas Witmer . Philadelphia . Pennsylvania – Paige Williams . Cincinnati . Ohio – Ian White Williams . Philadelphia . Pennsylvania – R.C. Wonderly . Las Vegas . Nevada
- Informal Relations: Patrick Alt, Chris Ashley, Patrick Berran, Kadar Brock, Matthew Deleget, Laura Fayer, Keltie Ferris, Patrick Michael Fitzgerald, Connie Goldman, Brent Hallard, Rachel Hayes, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Michael Just, Matthew Langley, Jim Lee, Rossana Martinez, Rob Nadeau, Melissa Oresky, Paul Pagk, Danielle Riede, Maximillian Rodel, Eric Sall, Susan Scott, Gabriel J. Shuldiner, Jessica Snow, Henning Straßburger, Garth Weiser, Wendy White, Paige Williams, Douglas Witmer, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, John Zurier, curated by Scott Grow, Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Dec 3, 2010 – Jan 15, 2011
- Touch + (IS Projects’ 25 – 25 box), Paris CONCRET, Paris, France, Oct 2 – 23, 2010.
- IS Projects in Australia: SNO62 (25 artists from Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and United States), curated by Guido Winkler and Iemke van Dijk, Sydney Non Objective, Sydney, Australia, Aug 8 – 29, 2010.
- California Summer: Lorene Anderson, Chris Ashley & Ann McConville, Angela Baker, Judith Belzer, Nan Grand-Jean, Roger Herman, David Maxim, Ward Schumaker, Marie Thiebault, Jennah Ward, Nina Zurier, George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, July 15 – Sept 4, 2010
- It’s a Wonderful Tenth, Sideshow Gallery, Brooklyn, Jan 9 – Feb 20, 2010
- Evergreen: Chris Ashley, Judith Belzer, Gina Borg, Clem Crosby, Michael David, Alan Ebnother, Lynn Glaser, Nan Grand-jean, Marie Thibeault, Alan Treister, Tad Wiley, John Zurier, George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, Dec 12 2009 – Jan 14 2010
- Happiness, selected by Sherman Sam, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA, Nov 24, 2009 – Jan 15, 2010
- Faraway, So Close, Recent-Projects, Berlin, Germany, Nov 28 – Dec 29, 2009
- Touch Faith, curated by Jeffrey Cortland Jones, SEMANTICS, Cincinnati, OH, Nov 7 – 28, 2009
- A Few Months: HTML Drawings (solo), Kent Place Gallery, Summit, New Jersey, Oct 19– Nov 20, 2009
- The Odd Months: an installation of inkjet prints (solo), Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley, Aug 24 – Dec 18, 2009
- Room for Painting Room For Paper, Curated by Susan Schimke and George Lawson, Shasta College Gallery, Aug 17 – Sept 25, 2009
- HTML Color Codes, Curated by Carolyn Kane, Rhizome at the New Museum, Aug – Dec 2009
- Selected Drawings: Chris Ashley, Roger Herman, David Maxim, Ward Schumaker, George Lawson Gallery, room for painting room for paper, Aug 6 – 29, 2009
- Blue & Green Paintings (solo), room for painting room for paper, San Francisco, Jan 8 – Feb 7, 2009
- Calculated Color, Higgins Art Gallery, Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts, curated by Jane Lincoln, Sept 3 – Oct 3, 2008
- html drawings/recent work (solo), David Cunningham Projects, San Francisco, Aug 7 – Sep 13, 2008
- B I T M A P: as good as new @ Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Drexel University, Philadelphia (catalog), June 2008
- CONSIDERABLE @ University of Dayton, OH, curated by Jeffrey Cortland Jones, March 2008
- I Made This For You (solo), Marjorie Wood Gallery, 12.01.07 – 01.31.08
- B I T M A P: as good as new, vertexList, Brooklyn, 11.24.07 – 01.27.08 (catalog: PDF; online)
- Chris Ashley: WYSIWYG (solo), Chambers Gallery, Portland Oregon
- Chris Ashley: Five Pieces (solo), Green Line Projects, Philadelphia
- Luxe, Calme et Volupté – curated by Joanne Mattera, Marcia Wood Gallery, Atlanta (catalog)
- AltGeo: loosened structures for line and color, curated by Douglas Witmer, Green Line Projects, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Across the Borderline, a drawing installation by Chris Ashley and Douglas Witmer, Rike Gallery University of Dayton, Ohio
- By Special Request, Floppyswop
- Blogging and the Arts, sponsored by Rhizome.org at The New Museum, NewYork,
- 99 mal 21 mal 21, Kammerhofgalerie Der Stadt Gmunden, Austria (catalog)
- we-blog with abe linkoln, jimpunk, Chris Ashley and Tom Moody, month-long guest panelist on empyre mailing list; one HTML drawing everyday during month
- The Urban Canvas, Gallery Siano, Philadelphia, PA
- 15th Anniversary exhibition of Edition S.p.N.LAUB, Stifter Haus, LinzAustria
- edition S.p.N.LAUB 15th Anniversary Anthology
- Kunst.Messe.Linz, o.oe.Landesgalerie/Landesmuseum, Linz, Austria
- “Christopher Ashley: HTML Drawings,” CD with images and text, September2004, ISBN (3-901102-22-1), edition S.p.N.LAUB
Cinematic Dataculture, 2007, inkjet print and acrylic sheets, 11 x 8.5 inches
- DeWitt Cheng: The Pursuit of Happiness, East Bay Express, 2009
- Max Eternity: Interview: Chris Ashley, Art Digital Magazine, 2009
- James Harris: Shapeshifters: Chris Ashley’s Blue and Green Paintings, catalog essay for Blue & Green Paintings, George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, 2009
- Dale Tegman: New Works: Chris Ashley and Alan Disparte, San Francisco Art Magazine, 2008
- Samantha Levitan: Geometric Rainbows, Barnstable Patriot, 2008
- Jane Lincoln: Calculated Color (catalog), 2008
- Marcin Ramocki: BITMAP: As Good As New (catalog) [841 KB .pdf], 2008
- Marisa Olson: Well-Written Picture, Rhizome.org, 2008
- Mark Hooper: Catch of the day: Second Life’s new gallery, Guardian Unlimited, 2008
- Haydn Shaughnessy: Blog Art, Irish Times, 2008
- Cybercom: Reinventing the Art Gallery, 2008
- Marisa Olson: Rhizome News: 31 Days, Rhizome.org, 2008
- Timothy Buckwalter: Art Review : Chris Ashley: I Made This For You, KQED, 2007
- Laura Wagner: Art Pals Feature Works in Rike, Dayton Flyer News, Ohio, 2007.
- Laura Lancaster: Chris Ashley: A Case Study; read at media.rmit.edu.au or chrisashley.net, 2006
- Eileen Wold: Artists Interview Artists: Chris Ashley, 2006
- Becky Shields: Pulse 2006, Gallery 1708, Richmond, VA, 2006
- Pete Baldes: Pulse 2006 (catalog), 2006
- Rob Myers: Chris Ashley – Look, See, 2006
- 99 mal 21 mal 21, Kammerhofgalerie Der Stadt Gmunden, Austria, 2005
- Manik: They Are What They Are & Layers , 2005
- James Harris: Singing the Body Electric, 2004
- George Lawson: Chris Ashley’s HTML Drawings, 2004
Untitled, 2007, Watercolor and pencil on drafting vellum, 20 x 16 inches
The HTML drawings exist within a specific context- anyone who has followed the work for awhile will have a sense that
- The drawings have or respond to a subject, and are somewhat representational, but not always of tangible things;
- This is really about making images, not about software.
- The drawings also derive their meaning from the fact that they exist within a weblog with a daily deadline: one drawing (typically) is exhibited each day, and the weblog serves as a gallery and an archive, all public;
- Meaning is also inherent in the fact that the drawings (almost always) are in series, so that each drawings is part of a body of work;
- Making these requires working up against the edge of the extreme and simple limitations of HTML tables, so that even though the images are necessarily structured in a grid, great effort is made so that the images are more than just a set of blocks; and
- Color is painterly- conventions like mix, tint, shade are emulated and used for structure, space, and composition.
It’s all quite a bit more involved- intuitive, hand made, felt- than it might initially sound, which will be borne out by looking and seeing.
365, 2006, 365 inkjet prints of HTML drawings, 11 x 8.5 inches each, installed at 1708 Gallery, Richmond, VA, May 2006
Photo Pete Baldes , 2006
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Painting on Water
Chris Ashley uses the original and rudimentary instructional set of the internet to make art, and delivers the results to his audience via the web. His studio/gallery is an online journal he maintains on a daily basis, a digital version of Malraux’s Museum Without Walls. Still, for all his accomplishments as a critical writer and community blogger, as a digital artist and rigorous conceptualist, Chris Ashley remains fundamentally a painter. This is so not just because he does also paint paintings in traditional media, but because the color work he creates without paint, the HTML images he is becoming known for, promote sensibilities historically associated with painting. Ashley’s roots are classical. The substantive value of his imagery will outlive any novelty of his working in HTML. He never forgets that his true medium is color and light, and he wields these basics with a deftness any painter would envy.
Ashley creates his art through coded instruction, simple commands that give his rectangles hue, width and breadth, and determine their location relative to one another. His method is constructivist but his manner is decidedly expressionist. He discovers his grid-based images intuitively, almost in spite of the grid, through a series of choices that accumulate and graft onto one another. The resulting cluster is organic, like rectangular grapes on a rectilinear stem. He feels his way into the color, and into the broader implications of his task.
Considered as a form of painting, Ashley’s HTML, virtual and non-physical as it is, prompts musings such as, “What direction is the light coming from?” or, “How big are they?” The works don’t conform to painting’s standard vocabulary, deriving their color as they do neither from mass tone (the light reflecting off an opaque surface), nor undertone (the light filtering through a translucent skin). Distinct from painting in this corporeal aspect, what seems most salient to the experience of viewing them is their transparency, how readily accessed they are. Ashley’s HTML images are to canvases as emails are to handwritten letters, ephemeral but profoundly convenient. What digital correspondence lacks as perfumed, autograph, keepsake, it makes up for in its immediacy, and the same holds true for Ashley’s art.
Ideas and images flow unfettered out of Ashley’s agile familiarity with his chosen medium and with art history, every day calling forth a new piece. The serial offerings often unfold around a conceptual theme cued in by the title. A week’s worth gives one the chance to see the development of Ashley’s running exploration and to consider the relationship between his formally constrained abstraction and the narrative references he is prone to attach to each piece by association. It is in this chronological accumulation, with images so easily archived and cross-referenced, that Ashley finds the real strength of his medium, creating an art which is as rewarding to ponder as it is to view. He is basically publishing, and his issued output accrues its own built-in currency. A visit to Ashley’s blog always feels like late breaking news.
Traditional painting, by its static nature, has a way of arresting and stretching time. Painted images reveal themselves according to inner clocks. By working in an iterative medium that is so responsive to the moment, so readily updated and refined, Ashley has found a fresh grasp on this plasticity, painting’s inherent ability to manipulate the perception of time. He enjoys both the suspended release of static painting and the serial accumulation of the web, a kind of painted journalism.
Artists have described the challenges of making online art as tantamount to designing on water. Ashley seems perfectly at home with the flux of this medium, with colors that shift from monitor to monitor and an oeuvre that consists at its core of nothing but electronically stored chains of zeroes and ones. Nonetheless, the basic language he chooses keeps him much more closely aligned to the painter’s vocabulary than to the dizzying technology of computer generated imagery. He uses the inherent constraints of HTML to create new freedoms, extending in a realm that is anything but solid the vernacular and experiential impact of concrete art.
Oakland 2004/ revised 2007
Jukebox, 2007, 28 inkjet prints, 55 x 59.5 inches
Chris Ashley: Statement
Written for the CD “Christopher Ashley: HTML
Drawings,” September 2004, ISBN (3-901102-22-1), edition S.p.N.LAUB
All of the approximately 782 drawings presented here date from 2002-04, and are made entirely with HyperText Markup Language (HTML) to compose tables with columns and rows colored cells. They are not made using a graphics program, or other coding or markup such layers, style sheets, or scripting. I use Macromedia Dreamweaver to make the drawings, and they are made “by hand.” These drawings represent probably 60-70% of the drawings that I have made over the last three years in this medium.
One drawing (and occasionally two) is made every day and posted on my weblog (link) except on days when, for some reason, I may not have network access. This public, journal-like practice is an important aspect of how the work is made, and is a context that provides another layer of meaning to the body of work having to do with audience, habit, deadline, accumulation, aggregation, cross-referencing, and reflection. These drawings began in the context of a community of authors of weblogs who were reading and linking to each other regularly, which influenced my practice, habits, and need to explain what I’m doing and why.
The drawings typically occur in small series of, say, twelve to fifteen or more drawings. They are ususally based on a particular subject, approach, or problem: travel or place; a memory; an idea or concept; a feeling, inspiration, or aspiration; responses to other art and texts; as well as the usual painterly issues of line, color, plane, space, edge, and scale.
I call these images drawings because drawing seems to me to be a medium more open to varieties of approach and material, whereas paintings seem to me to be physical object and require paint! However, it’s fine with me if other people look at and refer to them as painting. Clearly, as can be seen in some of the gallery views I’ve concocted (ex. 1, 2), I’ve imagined many of these as paintings, too. It doesn’t matter that much; what does matter is that I draw everyday.
I started using HTML because I wanted to make images for the web, and the idea of an image made with code embedded in a web page struck me as elegant, novel, and efficient. The weblog as a writing environment encouraged me to avoid graphic images. I didn’t want to have to use a graphics program, and save, upload, and organize jpegs and gifs. I
s liked the idea that the browser would read the code on a web page which would contain all of the information the browser needed to display the drawing.
HTML is an extremely limiting medium for making images. Edges of shapes are always hard, colors are always solid, and there is no texture. Every image uses the grid, and verticals, horizontals, and right angles are the rule. While the grid is a given, I work hard to make images that don’t make the viewer fixate on the grid, that don’t lock the eye down.
Regarding color, a broad range is possible using hexadecimal code, a web-safe palette of 216 colors can be relied on, and no transitions of blending or fading is possible.
At the same time that this medium is very limiting, these very limitations can be immensely freeing. It’s clear what I can’t do, and so I have to explore small twists and innovations to find new ways of working.
I also recognize the need to push against the medium only modestly because of my wish to be considerate of the user’s browser, bandwidth, and monitor. This is very much in-line with the painter Thomas Nozkowski’s commitment to small formats and canvas boards as a form of anti-elitism, as a kind of political and social awareness and engagement. I would like to note that two series of 2003 drawings are represented here by graphic representations- screen shots- rather than with the original HTML source code; the drawings in the Hippie Dreams and Mojave series each are very dense, with tables inside of tables resulting in several hundred and even thousands of lines of code each. These graphic representations were meant to solve bandwidth issues; the only graphic alteration of these drawings is resizing.
I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to compile these drawings in one location, to organize them in different ways, and to have others write about and validate my art. I’ll continue drawing.
 Web browsers read a markup language called HTML in order to properly
display formatted text, images, and links on web pages. For example,
<a href=http://chrisashley.net/weblog.>Weblog</a> = Weblog
 Chris Ashley’s weblog: http://www.chrisashley.net/weblog/
 Hexadecimal code is a system for designating color using six characters:
#ffffff=white; #000000=black; #003399=darkblue, etc.
April 2008, train from Frankfurt to Paris
Photo Ann McConville