As human beings, there’s something deep down inside that prevents us from looking away from scenes of horror and disaster. Whether it be a car accident on the highway or a torture porn slasher flick, something in our minds is drawn to witnessing atrocities. And it’s this peculiar lust for gore that makes the work of oil painter Christian Rex van Minnen so seductive. His provocative style evokes emotions of disgust and curiosity simultaneously, a juxtaposition he’s perfected over the last decade. We sat down with the Rhode Island native to learn how he developed his graphic approach and to uncover his growing fascination with ignorant style tattooing.
How did your upbringing inspire you to pursue a career as a painter?
I was raised to value the pursuit of knowledge of self, so that I can be of greater service to others. Drawing and painting have always been the means that facilitate those processes. That still very much informs what I do. I absolutely love painting.
How would you describe your style and what reactions do your pieces tend to conjure?
I am interested in dynamic contrasts in every way. Contrasts of texture, color, value, emotion etc. I believe that these contrasts are a gateway to new understanding.
What appeals to you about tattooed skin and why have you chosen to include it in many of your pieces?
Tattoos appeal to me on several levels. They have the potential to create textured layers of meaning, harmony and dissonance. Tattoos are a very potent visual device. It is an effective way to contextualize line, text and imagery.
Take us through your pieces which incorporate comments from Instagram. What do you hope to say by including social media in your designs?
Those voices and words from people I interact with on social media play a significant role in my life. Sometimes, it’s in harmony, other times it’s disharmonious, and layering in all of that phenomenon reveals something true about my experience in this life. I like that the Instagram live videos and comments are unplanned and uncensored. It’s interesting and honest.
What tattoo styles or genres most inspire you when creating a painting?
Probably what I’ve come to know as “ignorant style.” It’s well suited for spontaneous or intuitive drawing and writing, synchronistic with the automatic drawing process. I am drawn to the less flashy, more naive, more simple types of tattooing.
How has popular culture impacted your designs?
I’m a consumer like anyone else, I’m pretty open to anything I find interesting.
What themes and emotions do you frequently portray in your work?
I’m interested in dynamic contrasts, pairs of opposites, including emotional opposites, that reveal a third unseen thing.
Take us through your design process from sketch to finished product.
I don’t sketch really. I’m interested in a certain geometry that can guide decision making automatic drawing within certain geometric constraints. I usually make it up as I go, layering in the manner of the Venetian technique of oil painting.
Why did you choose to title your book “Massa Confusa” and what was your process for curating your own art book?
“Massa Confusa” refers to the initial chaotic phase of psychic and spiritual development. Within the context of the alchemical great work or process of individuation, “Massa Confusa” is synonymous with materia prima or the nigredo. It is apt in describing my first 20 years of painting and personal development.
What do you hope audiences can take away from your work and fifty years down the road, how do you hope to be remembered in the art world?
Fear is a gateway to love.