Glazed and Confused: Psychedelic Americana Body Horror of Christian Rex van Minnen

May 1, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Tupac’s tattoos on blobs of white skin, tucked upright into a pile, slumping onto a shore, dragging a tapestry, fat folds riddled with puss bubbles, cartoon eyes dripping out of rainbow bruises, and feathers on top — here comes Tupac Discovers America, one of the new paintings in Christian Rex van Minnen’s “Glazed and Confused” series, on view May 9th at Gallery Poulsen in Copenhagen. It looks almost traditional, an oil on panel, meticulously glazed. But really, it’s a portrait of European and American History as a colorful tumor.

Christan Van Minnen, Self-Portrait With Jail Time, Oil Panel 24 x 18in, Image Courtesy of the Artist

It’s as if the Dutch Painters had ingested some magical psychoactive that allowed them to see the full scope of history ahead — American Colonialism, the Genocide of Native Americans, the seeds of racism and social injustice, the prison systems, the ghettos, the rich history of oppression beginning in those first celebratory brush strokes… Everything, all at once. Their still lifes exploded with globs of flesh sprouting symbolic tattoos. Their portrait faces of Colonial figures ate themselves, caved in and grew over with with greasy ridges, instant scar tissues sucking arrowheads further inside. But theirs didn’t. Van Minnen’s did.

Christian Van Minnen, Forest Floor With Poor Decisions, Oil on Linen, 46 x 32 Inches, Image Courtesy of the Artist

“I tattooed a few flowers but that didn’t quite make sense. It looked good but they just became flesh,” Christian Van Minnen tells ANIMAL. He’s always  been inspired by tattoo imagery, but for recently, he’s trying new approaches. “Layering, I started placing black and white drawings in between the layers of paint in the still-life paintings. The painting Still-Life With Genocide mimics the traditional Dutch Golden age still-life, but if you look closer there is a drawing of a Dutch colonialist militia man carrying a rifle and a bible accompanied by his wife and behind them both, a church.”

Christian Van Minnen, Still Life with Genocide, Oil on Linen, 40 x 30 inches, Image Courtesy of the Artist

Van Minnen says he produces about two paintings a month but works on a dozen at a time. There are layers and layers of glaze which takes a long time to dry. Not all his paintings are heavy. “Others are less didactic. Pizza Bro Death Cult has a three-eyed pizza dog in it. Just cuz. This process ‘looks’ like subtext and in some cases it informs and in others just adds layers of confusion. On a conceptual level. I am really interested in confusion itself; the difficulty to really embrace a plurality of truth.”

That plurality of truth is a pretty horrifying concept, but the European-born American artist approaches it head on (in?), regurgitating something that’s all things, a corporeal manifestation of decades of history, from the disingenuous ambitions of early Colonialism to the contorted, mutated ideals of the 60s. It’s body horror. And it’s very beautiful. And what’s with all the rainbows?

Christian Van Minnen, Hot Horror On Tha Dance Floor, Oil on Linen, 46 x 32 Inches, Image Courtesy of the Artist

“I started thinking about what I could do with the glaze layer to make it almost independent from the forms they lay on top of,” Van Minnen explains. “I was thinking of the tie-dye as a kind of cloke, like the flesh covered with tattoos on top of the abstracted, grotesque forms. I think a lot about the dark side of the hippy movement. I like the dissonance.”

Christian Van Minnen, Tupac Discovers America, Oil on Linen, 46 x 32 Inches, Image Courtesy of the Artist

“Also, how the technical process of building forms through underpainting and hi-contrast grisaille really makes the glaze layers glow. There’s a lot there, but mostly I like how cool it looks.”  See more work in the slideshow above. “Glazed and Confused,” Christian Rex van Minnen, May 9 – Jun 7, Gallery Poulsen, Copenhagen (Images Courtesy of the Artist)