Invitation Into the Infinite:
Embracing the Intuitive in the Paintings of Marcus Vincent
By Courtney R. Davis, J.D., M.A.
Assistant Professor of Art History, Utah Valley University
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
The canvas is a portal into the eternities, a talisman for the soul. For those who speak the language of paint, the work of Marcus Vincent draws the viewer into a liminal space of contemplation and visual discovery. Textured layers of pigment peek from beneath translucent sheets of color, bending, angling, and arcing across surface planes opening into geometric dimensions. Simultaneously revealing and concealing, these layers form a living atmosphere of color. Yet, the viewer is not left without a guide: the artist’s careful placement of minimal, almost architectural marks defines the seemingly limitless space housed within the corners of his canvases. This duality defines Vincent’s non-objective work, which acknowledges color field painting, expressionism, and Eastern philosophies, and which invites the viewer to experience the pure pleasure of looking.
As an artist, Marcus Vincent embraces opportunity, possibility, and even risk. For him, the act of creation is not based upon a preconceived formula or method; rather, it is an intuitive process formed through an authentic relationship with materials, a process of experimentation, liberation, and even accident. Delighting in the “sudden surprises of materiality” that may surface through the act of construction and deconstruction of forms, Vincent experiments with paint, such as metallic, mica, and pearlescent pigments, as well as with wax, graphite, and gouache. Paint is applied in both translucent washes and opaque layers, while surfaces fluctuate from matte to lustrous, delighting the eye with unexpected reflections of light, as seen in the gilded tones of Expressions I Never Give (2017). Colors, ranging from analogous to contrasting hues, are often chosen for their emotional impact or even their relationship to specific materials, such as jade or stone. On occasion, Vincent forces himself to confront, even to master, challenging hues, such as the highly saturated orange tones that energetically characterize Pharaoh’s Dance (2017).
While some works emerge from a tranquil relationship with the artist, others demand nothing less than full-fledged battle. But for Vincent, these conflicts often produce the most satisfying works. An artist who advocates “killing the sacred cow”, Vincent often destroys in order to create. He paints over, obscures, and even obliterates sections of paintings and occasionally entire canvases in order to avoid privileging precious passages that threaten to hold his compositions hostage. In this connection, Vincent lauds chance, which often serves as a co-creator for his work. As Lao Tzu reminds us in the Tao Te Ching, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” It is this expressive intuition that both links Vincent to and separates him from twentieth-century expressionists and color field painters. His trust of self and embrace of intuition create a level of authenticity that can be experienced by viewers who allow themselves the opportunity to explore his abstract dimension-scapes.
With their gestural, even calligraphic forms as well as the continuous balancing of opposites, the works of Marcus Vincent reveal the artist’s appreciation for Asian art and theory. Vincent’s abstract use of space explores the outer boundaries of Japanese perspective. His mark making and gestural forms reflect his interest in surface textures of decorative arts from the Song Dynasty to ensuing generations. His shapes, or “space indicators”, create visual links to Asian characters, although devoid of specific messages. This abstract use of language invites the viewer to contemplate a pre-linguistic space, which can be seen, felt, and perhaps even heard.
The artist often seeks to paint the qualities of sound—tones, rhythms, and melodies become source material for visual event spaces. While the uniting of sound and space might harken to thoughts of Whistler’s nocturnes or Kandinsky’s improvisations, Vincent seeks to connect the viewer with a personal meditative space, not unlike the sound of Tibetan bells or a babbling brook. This organic, experience-driven realm of perception is complimented by the structure of geometric space and the contours of gestural forms, underscoring the artist’s interest in balancing antithetical forces. In their dual nature, Vincent’s works are alive and full of vitality, as if having thrown off the yoke of minimalism and the remnants of constructivism. They share impulses with Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and Post-Expressionism, yet Vincent develops an approach that is wholly personal and authentic.
The work of Marcus Vincent liberates the viewer by providing a personal domain of experience and introspection. It is a subtle space, a quiet space, as evidenced by works such as Echoes (2017) and See the Sky About to Rain (2017). At the fundamental core, Vincent seeks the beautiful. His works are non-narrative, non-connotative, and non-conceptual, unfettered by external dialogues or ideologies. We are not asked to espouse carefully molded doctrines or messages. We are given the opportunity to look at and beyond his painted portals into our own inner selves. At their heart, Vincent’s works are about us, the viewers. Only we can complete the questions being asked. Only we can accept the invitation the artist has presented. Yet, these microcosms of experience offered by the artist could provide no greater contrast to the world around us.
Emotional itinerancy has become a marker of the industrialized West, with its focus on technology, productivity, and rapid consumption. Psychological vagabonds in a constant state of relocation, our refugee spirits are never at rest. We hold ourselves to an exacting tribute, one paid in data, efficiency, and quantifiable benchmarks. In contrast, the quiet, introspective paintings of Marcus Vincent are a phenomenological release. They don’t demand our attention with flashing scrolling marques, interactive touchscreens, or social-political-conceptual statements on the state of modern life. Instead, they are like whispered voices from another realm, a metaphorical call to prayer offering a space to explore and repose, not to think, but to feel, to discover, to take part in sheer wonderment not unlike the captivation we find in nature—the tactility of a pebble shaped by the river’s flow, the spectrum of hues emblazoning an autumn leaf, the iridescent patterns etched on the coiling surfaces of a seashell; the treasures that we collect and place in our pockets for safekeeping. In the words of William Blake in the Auguries of Innocence, “To see the World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour.”
The work of Marcus Vincent invites us to witness infinity unfold in the stroke of a brush, the mark of a tool, the layering of paint upon linen. Vincent is a painter of the soul, a mediator between the physical plane and the great, boundless eternity beyond.