An introduction to the works of Christina de Vos (2)


Cut loose from the safe moorings of academia, Christina de Vos had to reinvent her schooling. Formal training taught her she was capable of producing great art – now all she had to do was to find a humanly feasible way to reattain that premature quality. Up the hill backwards, she began drawing from paintings and sculptures she admired, most notably Grünewald’s sorrow-laden, pain-drenched Isenheim Altarpiece.

Grünewald’s world isn’t all that different from that of Christina’s academic works: she continued depicting man’s inhumanity to man, but made it bearable by seeing it through the eyes of a fellow artist. This copying business is not what an autonomous artist is supposed to do, but just look at all those wonderful drawings! Those are not mere sketches; those are accomplished, mature drawings that perfectly capture the essence of the paintings from which they are derived.


Still, derivative is derivative, however pretty the pictures are. Christina’s drawings “after” old masters are nonetheless much more than studies towards an oeuvre that can stand on its own merits. Copying, as an act of appropriating, lies at the very heart of her artistic procedure: the admiration she feels for many old and some more recent masters is really a form of covetousness, a wish to basically own their works. Drawing is Christina’s way of learning how they pull it off, gradually replacing the “after” bit with something more respectable – like “inspired by” – until finally it’s all her own.

This transferred ownership isn’t of course the end of it. The quest for matching form and expression isn’t mere appropriation from past masters, but visible as an integral part of all of Christina’s “own” drawings, in which the play of lines clearly shows a process of trial and error. Instead of removing the tryout drafts and erroneous lines, they stay very much in play, resulting in an instantly recognizable, wholly original style.


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