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Dr. Stephen Brogan, Beige Magazine

Dominique Renson

Dominique Renson is a Parisian portrait painter who is currently showing work in London. Her paintings are very striking because of her technique and her subject matter. Renson paints the human body with a precision and skill that in some ways reminds one of good illustrations in a medical book, but at the same time the faces of the people she paints are full of character and humanity. This is all the more memorable because many of the people she paints are extraordinary. Thus she has painted Christine Kennedy Mingo Steinitz, a black transsexual who was originally from New York and now lives in Paris. The life-size nude painting of Christine is the piece de resistance of Renson’s London show. It depicts Christine standing with her arms extended in a crucifixion pose, with her breasts, cock and balls on display, and her head tilted slightly backwards. Her face bears the expression of complete audacity, and her eyes follow you around the room. At the private view in October it was a joy to watch the responses of the mainly white, upper middle class people as they took in the painting of Christine: many looked genuinely shocked by this gender hybrid, yet after a while they were captivated as well.

Renson has created a number of thematic series of portraits, and so, for example, she has a theme entitled ‘Boite series’ in which people are painted in the enclosed space of small white boxes, the side nearest to the viewer being open. The sitters vary from a drag queen half out of drag to a female stylist wearing a pair of transparent knickers and some black court shoes: by literally putting these characters in boxes Renson questions the way we label people and how we think of ourselves. She also paints them in such a way that you can almost feel their discomfort as they pose in their cramped space. Another series is called Resurrection, and one of the most striking portraits in it is of the very slim DJ Louis Heel who is shown with shoulder length, dyed red hair, naked save for a white robe that hangs open. The result is a ghostly, new wave Christ.


Dominique Renson shows at Roland Mouret, 8 Carlos Place, London W1K 3AS until 18 November.