The Lure of Transition
Stephanie Buhmann

A true portrait reflects the artist’s ambition to capture moments of truth regarding the subject’s character, appearance, psychological condition and emotional state. Though these elements play a part in Christian Vincent’s realist renditions of women, his focus is based on a more universal symbolism.

While rich in detail and descriptive characteristics, Vincent’s paintings do not depict specific individuals but rather manifest as metaphorically charged scenarios that focus on feminine existence at large. The cycle of life, the embrace of physical and emotional change due to the wondrous transformations of the female body, her inherent vulnerability, and fertility, are some comprehensive themes that Vincent captures in a language that is as sensitive as it is honest.

However deeply rooted in personal experience, Vincent’s protagonists are part of more independent fictions. As only great painting is capable, the still, inanimate oil breathes and a dialogue ensues with the willing viewer. Unusual outdoor settings of serene simplicity and seductive color, which can range from the seemingly familiar to otherworldly, provide these characters with unique environments rich in Surreal unpredictability. Occasionally, this quality is intensified by the figures’ extreme, half-bent postures, as seen in Narcissus and In the Garden, for example. Here, the angularity of the exaggerated bone structures creates a stark contrast to the classically pale alabaster skin tones, soft feminine curves, and elongated limbs that bring the elegant eroticism of Ingres’ Odalisque to mind. Delicately balanced, these attributes have enough strength to initiate unsettling, grotesque associations, while the obsessive recurrence of certain requisites, such as butterflies, and excessively lush foliage, spark a faint fetish quality.

In the foreground of Rope, three entangled nudes take center stage. Set against a vast mountain range of epic grandeur, their flesh gains immediacy and hence, dramatic impact. While the heavily intertwined physical pose is confrontational in itself, one woman’s direct gaze at the viewer enhances this effect. Looking straight at the audience as if to question its response, she functions as a transcendent agent: by directly engaging us, she creates an intimate connection that aids in blurring the distinction between the fictional world of the painting and our reality.

Most of Vincent’s works, however, force the viewer into the role of a bystander. Two of the largest compositions, Spring and Capture, focus on complex group dynamics in that the former portrays four and the latter seemingly countless young women. In both cases, the action moves parallel to the horizontal picture plane and without any acknowledgement of our presence. In addition, all characters share similar physical features, a slender, Bottocelli-esque stature and light dress code. Chained to each other by fate, these Sirens move within their own lyrical sphere and emerge as larger-than-life clones of perfection.

Meanwhile, a strong sense of anticipation dominates the overall atmosphere, which makes us believe that something is bound to happen. But what could be more theatric than life itself, with all its twists and turns and the sporadic glimpse of the macabre? By only hinting at the thin thread that holds human existence together, Vincent’s paintings of women manifest as allegories of the decisive moment when all facades drop and the individual is transformed into a vessel for something more abstract and universally true: nature.