Christopher S. Tietjen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1980's. He is a graduate of the world renowned Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) and the recipient of many prestigious awards; including the Henry J. Sheidt Memorial World Travel Scholarship, the Louis Fine Prize, the Seymour Reminick Memorial Prize, the Michael Pearson Memorial Prize, the Modern Realist: Philadelphia to New York Award, grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation and the Hanley Foundation Award for Philadelphia Artists, among others. He is currently traveling the world and redefining the contemporary landscape with his internationally collected, plein-air paintings.
Tietjen was raised in the suburbs of West Philadelphia by his mother, a primitive folk artist, and his father, an engineer. The following is an excerpt from a 2017 interview discussing his early life and it's impact on his work:
"My childhood home was a testament to [my mother's] fascination with age: Surrounded by brick and wrinkled wood, colonial antiques and reproductions; she hand-painted our plaster walls in the style of Rufus Porter: large images of hills, seascapes, foliage and even simple depictions of the family pets...Her ideal life was simple and entrenched in the past. She put her faith in tradition rather than the 'modern trends'. She was generally suspicious of technology...My father, on the other hand, was inspired by and in awe of technology. He grew up in a row home in Manayunk with his father who was an electrician and inventor...My dad is a mechanical engineer and is a very strange mix of slow calibrated, analytical thinking with sporadic bouts of creative, "make-do" improvisation. I observed this firsthand as we would spend the weekend hours puzzling over any issue that arose with the house, painstakingly measuring and planning, then abandoning those plans to eventually eek out a solution...These starkly opposing contrasts between my mother and father's respective relationships with art, science and technology have converged to become the greatest influence in my work. The duality of the primitive and the cutting edge, the abstract and the concrete, the known and unknown, propels my artistic approach."
Christopher was interested in the arts from an early age, however did not enroll in his first art class until high school. Tietjen was determined to grow as an artist, participating in and winning several art competitions. One such contest awarded him a scholarship to to attend courses at the Moore College of Art where he first worked from a nude model and used oil paint. He then participated in a program hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), wherein professional artists collaborated with and mentored the students, whose resultant work would compete for exhibition in the museum. Christopher's sculpture was selected for the exhibition and eventually won the competition. The PMA curator purchased his sculpture and encouraged Tietjen to consider attending PAFA, which would be the most pivotal experience in the young artist's life.
He entered the free PAFA high school program, attended lectures at the University of Pennsylvania and spent every free moment exploring museums and galleries. By his senior year of high school, he had developed a theory regarding optical reflexes and reactions to different color relationships, primarily focusing on the speed and directions in which the eye would travel across a composition. He submitted his theory along with his portfolio and was accepted to PAFA. Tietjen was awarded a merit scholarship and able to focus fully on his art education, studying with such notable faculty as Sydney Goodman and Scott Noel. He discovered and immersed himself in the works of artists who continue to influence his work today, like Edwin Dickinson, Alberto Giacometti, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Gerhardt Richter and Jennifer Bartlett. There, he fell in love with painting- experimenting, developing and refining his process. Christopher describes painting as "a medium, not an occupation." He expounds by saying that to him art is a language and a tool to research and better understand the world in which we live. "I am infinitely curious about the world and its possibilities- art is my favored tool. My artistic decisions are not arbitrary, not simply emotional or even aesthetic, they are researched and tested; they are sincere attempts to communicate my perspective and knowledge."
Tietjen has been committed to expressing this perspective through the creation of plein-air landscapes for over a decade. He attributes this connection to the landscape to his human nature, stating that "we all have an engrained physiological response to the landscape. It is perhaps the strongest aesthetic siren humans have and thought to be a survivalist mechanism. Seeing a water source or an open field with plant life makes us feel safe, since the ability to plan our next meal or drink offers a sense of security." However, for Tietjen it does not stop there. Christopher continues, "A storm rolling over the hills, a volcano erupting, or simply the sun lighting the air around us reveals that there are elements everywhere interacting, combining and splitting and causing reactions that we cannot see, aside from the result. In depicting the consequences, we are able to study and better understand these otherwise invisible forces."
The artist's true subjects are these curious forces, which he investigates with an approach that is at once scientific and poetic. His process requires constant exposure to the physical presence of the subject en plein air. He relies on mathematics and a system of measurements, documenting growth through shape orientation and perspective. He uses these measurements to uncover "the relationships between the small parts and the whole of the picture plane." The "poetry of the calculation" as Tietjen describes it, "lies in the aesthetic decision." Christopher defines this as the choice of which movements and transformations best embody the subject as he sees it. He elaborates, "I must choose, from amongst all of the data, the level and degree to which each aspect is emphasized, understated, ignored or omitted. These decisions are often influenced by education, but also unique personal experiences and emotions. This choice leads to a personal interaction between the process and subject in a visual discussion of mathematics. I am growing artistically throughout the process, changing with it, interacting with past interpretations to realize the truisms of nature and painting."
A special showing of Christopher S. Tietjen's most recent work, The Acadia Series: 2014-2017 exhibited at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park until August 14, 2017 and at the Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor, Maine until October 23, 2017. Tietjen will be showing at the Artemis Gallery in July 2018.