Christopher Thompson, an English artist, was born in Grimsby in 1969 and studied at The Royal Academy. Since graduating he has exhibited extensively at home and abroad, his work featuring in many private collections and, most notably, in The National Portrait Gallery in London.
His technically accomplished paintings derive from an interest in the portrait and particularly what might be termed ‘the urban portrait’. Solitary figures, predominantly male, are often situated in sparsely rendered urban spaces. Their form is dramatically revealed by artificial light; the resultant ‘chiaroscuro’ effect lends a brooding, emotional intensity to the scene. When framed by a theatrically simple staging, that which is initially a study in character becomes something of a narrative. The paintings have the quality of a excerpt from a film, a pause for thought, before the action continues. These figures are seen at pivotal moments of assessment or judgement.
The artist’s fine art training is revealed in the subdued palette, control of expressive tonality and art historical reference. The careful, analytical draughtsmanship and closely-observed fluency of the handling articulate the planes and surfaces of his subjects’ features, with an obvious emphasis on the head and hands, those most expressive of elements. He pays close attention to physical attitude and gesture, important components in conveying the mood of the scene. All these painterly competences come seamlessly together in each of these compositions.
Viewing these paintings one is put in mind of Edward Hopper’s nocturnal scenes, updated to a contemporary context, peopled by a modern version of Manet’s ‘flâneur’. We are presented with an image of a solitary, possibly alienated, individual negotiating a path through a dimly lit and deserted modern dystopia. These characters appear to be engaged in a familiar, and timeless, personal story of ‘what to do ?’ and ‘what next ?’.