Christopher Thompson paints solitary figures in urban settings. He works from shadow, building up chiaroscuro images on an underlying framework of charcoal blacks and translucent greys. Subtle tones of flesh and clothing are laid on to establish the solid fact of the subject. His men and women come to life, emerging from the murk and miasma of a dark city.
This artist acknowledges a debt to the masters of the past. His work is steeped in art-historical references, which range from Caravaggio, through Rembrandt to Vermeer. Trained at the Royal Academy Schools and a dogged seeker of the most thorough means of pictorial representation, he invests in honing his craft. His classical technique brings veracity and conviction to his compositions, which typically place a single figure against an economical indication of contemporary, urban landscape. Thompson’s pensive subjects embody a spirit of alienation and self-examination.
These paintings put us in mind of a mid-twentieth century, ‘modern’ world, particularly that pictured by some of the figurative realist painters of the Euston Road School and the later School of London. This is the psychological setting of Patrick Hamilton’s ‘Hangover Square’ and the novels of Jean Rhys, where damaged characters whirl around in a fog of fatalistic self-absorption, against a setting of austere and workworn architecture. Thompson’s pictures express this sensibility and update it to the present day.
Throughout his career this painter has circled around a recurring set of tightly focused themes and motifs: the figure isolated against a subdued and allusive background. His primary concern is always ‘how to paint’ and ‘how to paint well’. If any one thing is paramount, it is his pressing desire to interpret and depict light as it falls on and modulates the human form. This simple need is constantly reiterated in Thompson’s quest for excellence.