CLJ Lancaster is an extremely talented American figurative painter who surfs the crests of the waves of Expressionism, Surrealism and Symbolism without ever embracing any of them completely.
His visionary work is not so much characterised by his style, albeit effectively interesting: a pre-eminently classical style of painting with the addition of preponderantly large, rich and flowing brushstrokes reminiscent of Edvard Munch. The harsh lighting and dark shadows become a chiaroscuro that reminds us of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The compositions, in which the staging of the subjects that occupy the whole foreground of the canvas, leaving very little space to the however minimalist background, remind us of Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This manipulation of light and shadow, the strategic disposition of the figures, the luminous expansions of bright colour and the selective attention to detail give CLJ’s works a strong emotional impact. They create dark atmospheric scenes of sublime dramatic sensuality and strength.
What is entirely fascinating, is the subject matter of Lancaster’s paintings – the connection, the gateway, the path between earth and heaven that in the artist’s idealised vision, is represented by angels. Be they messengers, guides or protectors, CLJ’s angels have nothing in common with the ethereal, asexual, incorporeal beings we are used to in common iconography. These angels are more true to the classical theological doctrine of spiritual beings, superior to humans in power and intelligence, benevolent and awe-inspiring, with the wisdom and knowledge of earthly events, but also not infallible, in fact their suffering is visibly intense and tangible in the artist’s canvases.
The wings of these Cherubim, Seraphim and Psychopomps that capture the eye, envelop and obscure all else at first sight, are a vivid expression of strength and dominating power. We are attracted to the wings: large, embracing, reassuring; we experience the dynamism and energy that the artist’s thick, sweeping brushstrokes enhance.
Saint John Chrysostom wrote: “For the ladder seems to me to signify the gradual ascent by means of virtue, by which it is possible for us to ascend from earth to heaven, not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners”. From this perspective, CLJ Lancaster’s angels are the visual representation of the inner journey we must take to improve, correct and ascend to empyrean immortality.
International Confederation of Art Critics