Christopher Hynes grew up in Washington, D.C., the youngest of ten children in a creative, political family. In the family culture there was a tradition of individual expression, a strong work ethic, and the idea that there is a duty to contribute to society, to give something back.

From an early age, Christopher was exposed to an exciting variety of world cultures, art, music, literature, and history. He started drawing and painting while still a child. Among his mentors and friends were Joseph White and Virginia Daley, along with several members of the Washington Color School—Leon Berkowitz, Gene Davis, Carol Sockwell, Michael Clark, Sam Gilliam, and Hilary Hynes (his brother). Their way of using color itself as a statement had a strong influence on Christopher’s development.

Music, especially straight-ahead American music, has always been a big part of Christopher’s life and his work. At age 13, hearing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was a revelation for him. The experience transformed his whole way of seeing and hearing. He became a musician himself, learning to play harmonica, and for several years worked equally on both his painting and his music. The influence of the music led him to develop a style in his painting that would continue to inform all his later work in any media. The way jazz musicians improvise is how he paints—breaking traditions, stretching the boundaries of the form, opening to let the energy of the moment come through.

In his young adult years, Hynes concentrated on music, playing in bands for several years. In 1984, he left DC and moved to Austin, Texas. Around 1988 he quit playing music professionally and returned to the visual arts. Hynes has always been a collector. Following in a strong family tradition of collecting, as a child he would go for walks and come home with pockets full of treasures. He had a fascination with trash piles and would spend hours combing the alleys. He’s always had what he would later come to call his altars of junk, arrangements of his collected items on every available shelf or windowsill.

Christopher likes to work with his hands. He makes all his own frames and strainers and cuts all his own glass and boards. He has earned his living as an archival picture framer, a trade he learned in his brother T’More’s shop in DC, and working day jobs in the construction trades.

As a child of the 60s and of his particular upbringing, he is very sensitive to the waste in our throwaway culture, so the challenge of how to make use of leftover building materials, lost objects, and collected pieces is an ongoing problem-solving theme in his artistic development. He paints mostly on wood and paper, often recycled materials from job sites. The challenge of working with what he has, what’s on hand, is a strong stimulus for his art.

His first works when he returned to the visual arts in the late 80s were assemblages, created by taking his altars of junk and containing them in boxes. Originally he made all the boxes himself, and now he uses recycled drawers. These works are especially expressive of another aspect of the jazz influence—the juxtaposition of elements that wouldn’t normally go together, riffing with the iconography of objects, transforming things into something different from what they were intended to be, and getting all the disparate elements to work together.

As homage to his love of jazz and out of a desire to give something back to those musicians who have given him so much, Hynes has an ongoing series of portraits of jazz masters that so far includes almost 50 pieces. The portraits are realistic, and the abstract backgrounds echo the music of the artists being depicted.

Hynes’s abstract works have developed over the years into what he calls wall studies, combining elements of sculpture and painting and using techniques of pouring textures and multiple layers of paint. An ongoing series of collaborations with his brother Tim Hynes comprises paintings that combine both abstract and realistic images. The working style Christopher has developed in the abstract works and the collaborations grew out of his affinity for Oriental painting, particularly the Zen painters. He will often meditate and think for an hour or more before touching the materials or pouring paint.

Certain themes emerge in all his works—the use of color, explosive at times, as primary theme; the use of texture and layers of paint; the recycling of lost objects and leftover materials; and the use of abstract and surreal images juxtaposed with realistic images. Humor is a common theme, too. In many of his works there is the paradoxical feeling that nothing is sacred—everything is fair game—and yet there’s a reverence for all life.

Hynes sees his work as a spiritual practice and daily discipline. He gets in four hours a day in the studio on weekdays, generally working in the evenings after finishing the day job, and more on weekends. Painting for him is very spiritual. "It’s my form of church," he says. "It’s my form of meditation. When you’re lucky, you can stop time. And I think that’s what I’m always trying to do, to stop time—to dip the ladle in my hand into the river of life and catch that moment." He feels compelled to create. "I have to create what’s trapped in my head," says Hynes. "My head is jumbled full of imagery all the time, and I have to try to bring it forth." How to bring images and abstract ideas into the physical world and give them form is the ongoing challenge, the practice, the discipline that absorbs him. For Hynes, the process is the important thing. He creates for his own personal needs and desires, but as soon as he’s finished with a piece, he’s ready for it to go out into the world. "I don’t have any babies," he says. "My best and most interesting piece is the one I’m working on right now."