Global nomad Christian Develter (Belgian, b. 1968) uses his canvases to portray rich experiences of peoples and cultures from around the world. Develter moved to Asia in the mid-nineties to live in Bangkok, Thailand. Develter’s experiences while traveling lead him to pursue the depiction of moments that speak across starkly different socio-realities. Develter’s works are vibrant, striking, iconic instances of beauty, strength, power, and intensity.
Develter’s latest series chooses for its subject the women of the Chin tribe in Myanmar, focusing on their elaborately tattooed faces. Initially, the tattooing began as a way of marking the women to deter other tribes from kidnapping and marrying the Chin women. Over time, however, they have become less than a marker, but instead symbols and beauty and status that reflect the animist beliefs of the tribe. As the borders of Myanmar are increasingly open, these tattoos have become sparse. Develter takes on the role of an anthropologist, recording a tradition as it approaches extinction. His talent lies in finding beauty in the documentation of a phenomenon that conveys meaning and culture through aesthetic expression.
His protagonists are not mere subjects, but spirits immortalized in paint, possessing self-identity and character. The precision and perfectly executed details from expressions to accessories bring each figure to life by Develter’s soft and balanced brushstrokes. Each personality is highly stylized, placed in exaggerated poses either formal or playful, as if being fully aware of an onlooker’s regard. The human gaze has enthralled artists for centuries. From Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn, the power of an artist to capture such vivid expressions is priceless. Develter’s ability to create figures that capture humanity in its most organic form, through the visual gaze is a testament to his talents as an artist.
Excerpt from Christian Develter: Dream in Colour by Sanya Souvanna Phouma:
“…for what is admirable in Christian Develter, beyond the choice of his subjects, is precisely that stubbornness, which characterizes him, to be adamant in that hyper-finished, almost exaggerated style, specific to the make-up of dramatic stage and, of cinema as we know it between the nineteen thirties and the Nouvelle Vague. For, what Develter paints, is first and foremost a particular light, the very kind one finds on a stage or in a movie studio, intense and hard. There is no background in the shadow, no half-painted detail, no sinuous valley, no window neither door, not even a horizon. What he paints is a surface, a mask, a figure that, before reappearing under his brushstroke, was almost faded, like a lost memory, in oblivion.”