ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original idea sketch next to a finished piece. This week, we’re talking to Brooklyn-based painter Christian Rex van Minnen whose immaculate portraits and tableaux are a perfect mix of visual opulence and pretty horror. Today, he shows us the inspiration and process behind RED & GREEN. 

This painting was started much like others, from abstraction developed within certain geometric and stylistic conventions unique to portraiture. I enjoy piling things up onto ‘heads’ and ‘faces’ to create layers of confused information making it difficult to say the face is one thing or another.

Humans have an innate tendency to search for facial features in things non-human, such as clouds or rocks or toast, and this is known as pareidolia — I like to play with this.

Recently, I have been interested in how the final glazing layers can include make-up and tattoos, super-added to the flesh glazes.

I am intrigued how this adds another layer of illusion and interaction for the viewer, creating a place to rest while avoiding it’s malignant substrate. While Google image searching ‘bad tattoos’ I came across a mug shot of a neo-nazi with his face covered in tattoos.

It’s intense. The picture of the tattooed blond man with the awful nazi prison tattoos on his face struck me as profound. Here was what appeared to be a nice-looking young man whose tattooed face created a fearsome superficial layer. I referenced many of these prisoners with tattooed faces.

I thought, well, I kind of want to do the opposite; super-add party make-up, and silly and absurd tattoos and fur and jewels upon something horrendous and malignant. Layers of confusion, fused together.

So there it is.

See Christian Rex van Minnen’s current show at the Robischon Gallery in Denver and at Gallery Poulsen, Copenhagen in June.

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