Studio Visit: Christian Rex van Minnen Breaks Down His Layered Oil Painting Process

by Nastia VoynovskayaPosted on

Christian Rex van Minnen’s paintings (featured in HF Vol. 25) are painstakingly laborious. The artist uses the techniques of the Northern Renaissance masters to paint tripped-out portraits and still lifes where his subjects devolve into bulbous, tumor-like lumps of flesh and organic matter.

While Van Minnen’s work is commonly interpreted as being about deformity, when we visited the artist’s studio in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, he discussed the conceptual underpinnings of his creative process. Of Dutch heritage himself, Van Minnen pointed out the connections between the works of the Northern Renaissance masters and the colonial politics of the era. The grotesque elements of his work, rendered in this timeworn style, signal at the insidious effects of European colonialism and the death, destruction, and racism that it engendered.

Work in progress

Van Minnen skillfully paints off-putting details in visually alluring ways. He has developed a unique technique for rendering tactile-looking, sumptuous textures. For his latest work, Still Life with Diary Entry and Diabetes, the artist began by creating a monochromatic underpainting while leaving the white of the canvas exposed for certain figures. As he built up layers of oil pigment to create 3D-looking shapes, he achieved a neon glow that made certain, gummy candy-like shapes appear to pop off the canvas. One of his most ambitious paintings to date, “Still Life wtih Diary Entry and Diabetes,” will debut at Gallery Poulsen’s upcoming group show, “Blaze of Glory,” opening on June 13. Take a look at our photos from Van Minnen’s studio to get some insight into his process.

Work in progress

Left to right: Underpainting, Work in progress

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