Chris Ballantyne was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1972. He grew up in the suburbs of coastal cities around the country, as his father served in the Coast Guard, and his family would relocate every few years. He received a BA from the University of South Florida in 1997 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002. Ballantyne currently lives and works in Manhattan, New York.
Ballantyne’s paintings are mediations on the intersection between man-made structures and natural environments, urban development and upheaval, and the increasing danger of climate change. He is influenced by the gridded architecture of cities such as New York and San Francisco, as well as his early experiences living along the United States coast. By painting directly onto unprimed wood panels, he emphasizes the juxtaposition of natural and man-made elements in his art. His paintings depict endless, unsettling city grids and bodies of water, tumultuous coastlines and isolated city blocks, combining a fluid painting style with hard-edged, graphic precision. Traces of human presence can be inferred through architecture and farmed fields, however his landscapes are purposefully uninhabited to create an open-ended and ambiguous narrative. His personal interest in surfing and skateboarding affect the composition and perspective of his work, depicting static objects such as road signs, storage units and staircases as dynamic sculptural elements to be traversed, always seen from a shifted vantage point. As well, when Ballantyne chooses to populate his landscapes with people, the figures are always surfing and typically lack any discerning features, reinforcing the detached human presence looming in his paintings. His works on paper have the simplicity of Japanese ink drawings, depicting the same floating city blocks, buildings and landscapes in a minimalist style. He has also created several site-specific murals as part of exhibitions and commissions.
Ballantyne has exhibited internationally and has been the recipient of several awards including the Tournesol Award and Residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2004, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 2005, and a Tamarind Institute Invitational Residency in 2013. His work is included in several public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Art Rotterdam Foundation, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, among others.