British artist, Christopher Thompson, presents a new series of portraits. The subjects are all young and male, painted in Thompson’s trademark ‘chiaroscuro’ style. Anonymous, but distinctive, they are self-contained, avoiding, or unaware of, the viewers’ gaze. Their poses are familiar from the world of advertising, film and fashion, evoking ideas of the lone protagonist and the existential hero. They inhabit a stark urban landscape of atmospheric shadow, where the hard surfaces of concrete, steel and glass speak of resilience and possible alienation.
Thompson pays particular attention to the dramatic tonality of his compositions. Sombre blacks, greys and earth colours predominate. His rendering of clothing is singularly rich: the texture of suit-cloth, wool overcoat and sheepskin are all tangibly present. They combine to express a sense of specific male-ness, a pre-occupation with protection and display, a modern-day armour worn in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
Isolated, these figures are caught between acts. They pause and contemplate, waiting for action, cautiously weighing up their options. Essentially romantic, the paintings make reference to historical notions of male agency, but locate them in the contemporary everyday. Thompson combines mastery of traditional technique with a raw and immediate context.