At Martin Bowne Fine Art they have a very hands-off approach to visitors. When we went to see the Chris Langlois show Vanishing Point , there was no one there. The door was open, the lights were on, but all we saw, or rather heard of the staff, was distant laughter and the faint splashing of the gold fish in the gallery’s indoor pond. It was like someone had come in and spirited the staff away leaving us to ponder Langois elegant seascapes alone and in silence.
The last lot of works by Langois that we had seen was some skyscapes of indistinct cloud and haze over graduated blue squares, as though the artist had simply recorded a section of the sky in oil paint for our consideration. We were captivated. This new selection of works finds the ocean added into the frame and in two instances bits of coast line, and breaking waves in others. Verging on the photoreal, Langois technique rewards the viewer who takes a few steps back to let the brush strokes coalesce into a seamless whole. There is something ineffably contemplative in the works, and the edge of the ocean and the sky at the vanishing point of the pictures is a place where the viewer’s mind rests. That the artist also conjours up something about the very nature of seeing in his titles Ocean (Violet Green) or Ocean (Green Blue) only adds to that sense of infinitude.
Gazing on these paintings also inevitably suggests artists who have been this way recently as well. Gerhard Richter of course added ‘focus’ to the equation of his images, making the seascapes mediate between a photographic record of the ocean and the pictorial representation of the image (he’s German you understand) and Hiroshi Sugimoto invested a Zen like weightlessness to his images of oceans and seas (he’s Japanese you understand). With the ghost of JMW Turner floating over your shoulder too, it’s a brave artist who takes on the seascape, perhaps even one who’s a little foolhardy. Luckily for Langlois he succeeds.