JESUS OF NAZARETH

52 X 76cm • OILS • 2017

In this painting of Jesus the artist approaches the most important mystery of the Son of God in becoming a man, showing him in the moment of great distress. This picture uses the Ecce homo theme which was highly recommended in the Middle Ages and Baroque times. In those paintings the Son of God is always presented in the iconographic context of the Roman governor Pontius Pilatus, who shows the tortured Jesus to the Jewish people, crowned with thorns, scourged and dressed in a blooded garments. While doing this the governor says to the people: Ecce homo, Behold the Man.

 

Famous painters like Hieronymus Bosch and Albrecht Dürer, Martin Schongauer and Hans Holbein the Elder as well as Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio have shaped this scene, to name but a few. So this pained man of Marcus Sprigens is a flayed being, a suffered Christ with bloody spots and bruises and only the red cloth, thrown over the right shoulder, protects his gnawed body.

 

But, despite his human vulnerability, this Jesus of the English artist is characterised by worldly transcendence and a living, true spirituality. This is mainly due to the figure being illuminated from the inside outwards, with a brightened face. Both his shoulder length, stubbornly, untidy hair and the almost elegant crown of thorns are defined by glamorous light reflections which can be thought of as stage lighting from a film set. The subcutaneous Hollywood effect is additionally underlined by the classical male, strikingly attractive face of the protagonist and also by his large bright blue eyes. With those shining eyes the Son of God looks almost ecstatically to the heavens, thus obviously leading an inner dialogue with his divine father. Despite his situation, the face of Jesus here looks almost euphoric, defined by an inner vision which seems a certainty to him. The famous phrase of the bible My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? seems to be visualised here in an almost hypnotic way. In that respect this portrait of the Son of God is simultaneously worldly and supra mundane, showing transcendence and sensuality at the same time. But we also can see or at least suspect that the almighty Jesus knows that his nearby fate of crucifixion, is to come. So in a way this Ecce homo embodies an optimistic fear because the Son of God already knows that finally he will resurrect.

 

Also we should realise that the brightened face was the result of an extremely elaborate painting technique. Numerous painting layers are superimposed by the artist. The first step is a fast sketch followed by egg tempera white and lead white layers recalling methods of Middle Age paintings. Then follows a linseed oil surface on which contours and volumes are arranged with brown and black oil paint. Now the classical highlights with Titanium white oil paint come to create an intensified plasticity and to set light effects. Over this layer the artist then arranges burnt umber oils and burnt umber glazes as well as a red iron oxide glaze followed by orange and yellow shadings. Finally a high quality gloss varnish surface. Thus this elaborate, but fragile technique, which recalls alchemical experiments, strikingly corresponds to the transcendent, supernatural content of the representation.

 

Text: Prof. Dr. Volker Fischer, Master Curator, Art Historian and Critic Honorary Professor of the Academy of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main / Frankfurt

EKATERINA

30 X 40cm • OILS • 2017

SHOSHANA

30 X 40cm • OILS • 2017

ELODIE

30 X 40cm • OILS • 2017

This face reminds us, in a way, to a sports woman just before an important competition. She seems transported with both tired but concentrated eyes. A classical oval face, focussed on self-engrossment. On the one hand the nose seems pertly and demanding, on the other the mouth and chin seem a little more withdrawn.

AMANDA

52 X 76cm • OILS • 2016

The eyes look simultaneously surprised and disenchanted with sharply outlined contours, at the same time they appear quite trusting. The nose is formed with strength and precision, the mouth is as sensual as it is stubborn. So this portrait shows a young woman who seems to have a lot of experience behind her, but even more in front of her. Her look seems to say this and sues for it.

EUGENIE

52 X 76cm • OILS • 2016

The view of this woman is self-confident. She looks contrary to the general direction of her face. Her pointed oval etheric face probably seems to belong to a young nun who at the same time likes and dislikes erotic imaginations: a kind of fear-loss or sin in a state of innocence.

Dark Deco Collection 2016

With a sophisticated painting technique Marcus Sprigens is successful in giving his elegant female faces a translucent skin which reminds us of the attractive transparency of the most prominent porcelain known as bone china or exclusive Japanese lacquered surfaces.

 

His portraits are stylistically inspired by the famous pictures of Tamara de Lempicka who was a true celebrity and one of the most renowned female artists of her time. To date she is considered as a leading icon of Art Deco paintings. Her portraits combine rational coolness and sensual presence in a remembrance to Renaissance art, especially to that of Sandro Botticelli. Lempicka was one of the most sought after artists of the 1920s and 1930s. Only about fifteen paintings by her are known from that time. The subtitle of a monography of her work describes her artificial mood in a precise way: “A life dedicated to décor and decadence”.

 

Marcus Sprigens has focused the spirit of those paintings in his, based purely on the physiognomy. He completely renounces the chic interior design and fashion accessories which characterize Lempicka's pictures. On the contrary he concentrates entirely on the internal proportions of the faces. The forms of the chins, mouths and noses, eyes and eye brows define the expression of the faces which are always shown in a three-quarter profile. They are defined by eyes with perfect make up and kissing or pouting lips. So these ladies are icons of a perfect style of classical cosmetic strategies which give homage to the ideal of timeless beauty. Nefertiti meets burlesque dancer Dita von Teese with a ladylike appearance and nostalgic visual references to the legendary divas of the Hollywood cinema. The world as Will and Representation.

 

This suite of paintings are titled Dark Deco, worked in dark and light tones. The allusion to the term Art Deco shows inspiration from this stylistic era with an added fatalistic development of its essentials. In fact, these ladies by Sprigens are very urban and elegant, but they seem to also know a dangerous existence from the perspective of the night: bars, lonely nightcaps, one night stands, hire and fire situations. On the other hand they also radiate consolation and defiance, in the now. So the artist succeeds with this handful of portraits in creating a psychograph of moods, injuries, obsessions and hopes, combined with feminine elegance and refinement. A condition humaine en miniature.

 

The artist uses a special technique for this collection of paintings. This technique is in a way similar to the old black and white Grisaille technique. The difference with this style is that Sprigens starts with a dark tone as opposed to a mid-tone and then using white oil paint he creates the forms and contours. The shadows remain in the image from the original underpainting. Then again oil colours may be re-applied over the top of the dark underlaying colour. This technique was probably also by Michelangelo da Caravaggio, the most important master of the early Baroque chiaroscuro painting. Sprigens calls this technique lumen obscura, referring to the process of bringing light into the dark. So one may say, that this is really a new, fresh kind of enlightening.

 

Text: Prof. Dr. Volker Fischer, Master Curator, Art Historian and Critic Honorary Professor of the Academy of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main / Frankfurt