How to describe the year 2020 other than "What a shit show!". Coming out (again) as an artist, yeah, sure, I couldn't have picked a worse time to do so. By March there was no art or theatre world left to speak of, exactly the two worlds that an artist like me had to survive in. I could kiss all of that goodbye.
It started normal enough though, with sort of a "classic". Each time I did that, it usually meant I was already unconscious working on some new ideas. So after that painting I emptied all the painting-easels and started from scratch. (And in a way, you could take that literally.) "You!" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 200 x 240 cm).
I decided to take the dripping technique a bit further. (This was still early in the year. No covid shit, yet.)
Many of these (dripping) paintings were inspired by Bruegel. He was, and still is, a brilliant artist. Any of his paintings can inspire me any moment. "Massacre of the Innocents" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 175 x 200 cm).
Painting a neighborhood at odds with itself. "Hometown" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 180 cm).
People taking a little boat to a better life don't always get there... "Styx" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 150 cm).
The "Harvest" series are paintings inspired on Bruegel's "The Harvesters". "Harvest" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 180 cm).
High summer and the crops are ready, bursting with life! "Cornfield" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm).
When the end of summer was near, when there was plenty. "Harvest" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 180 cm).
Can houses, like people, become enemies? "Neighbors" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 160 cm).
"Hours of the Conception of the Virgin". Alto there were dozens of paintings in history that had this subject, this one was based on a renaissance painting, not at all because of the religious subject but in trying to emulate a painting from that periode. "Hours of the Conception of the Virgin" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 150 cm).
"Hunters in the Snow" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 190 x 190 cm) is also inspired by the Bruegel painting with the same name
This one is of course after Bruegel's "The (Great) Tower of Babel". "Tower of Babel" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm).
And then, before you knew it, you were in lockdown, the first of several. I never knew one could hate a virus.
Because of the fact that all non-essential shops were (forced) to close, I quickly ran out of materials to paint. So I started to work with what I had lying around in my studio. I had a whole stack of 4 cm thick honeycomb cardboard, a leftover from another experiment. I decided to give it a go...
Because of the lockdown I thought of a new title for this paintings on honeycomb cardboard. I named it the "On The Road" series.
Cardboard has a beautiful warm ochre color, but the thing I liked the most of it was its vulnerability. They were terrible easy to damage. For me that meant that these characteristics played a part in these paintings. It was as well an object as a subject.
Harvest was near. "Cornfield" (oil & glaze medium on honeycomb cardboard, 121 x 181 cm).
Colors crashing onto the shore, always changing and staying the same. "Surf" (oil & glaze medium on honeycomb cardboard, 121 x 180 cm).
Landscape of silence, gone but still there, empty but full, like the promise of life. "Winter" (oil & glaze medium on honeycomb cardboard, 121 x 180 cm).
Every sunset is personal, and easily shared. "Sunset" (oil & glaze medium on honeycomb cardboard, 81 x 121 cm).
About that time I was asked to create a screen that could be used as a room divider. That reminded me of the Japanese silk and paper screens, especially the Rinpa School. - Rinpa (琳派) is one of the major historical schools of Japanese painting. It was created in 17th century Kyoto. The term "Rinpa" is an abbreviation consisting of the last syllable from "Kōrin" with the word for school (派, ha) (pronounced as "pa"), coined in the Meiji period. Of course I used the honeycomb cardboard for this. "Poppy Field" (oil & glaze medium on honeycomb cardboard, 2x 122 x 260 cm).
"Dark Hearts". With lots of time on my hands and no possibilities to go out the door (except for those essentials), I thought about creating another graphic novel. A kind of a lockdown novel. And as seen the circumstances everything pointed in the direction of a graphic NOIR. It took me a little over a month from start to finish. If I had known that this Covid-19 shit would take forever, I could have made a 1100 pages novel instead of the 110 pages one.
"Dark Hearts". Story: Chicago, 1949. When Mobster Joey Gallo, a.k.a. "Tough Joe" finally gets out of jail, he doesn’t want to go back to his former life, although that turns out to be more difficult than expected, even after he did a six year stretch for his boss Clemente. Everything seems to be determined to get him back to Chicago. Lack of money for instance, but most of all his former fiancé Lucy, the bosses daughter. "Dark Hearts" (paperback, 110 pages, 18,5 x 25,5 cm, b/w)DARK HEARTS
Meanwhile I found some leftover canvas at my studio so I did a few landscapes on them as well.
I kinda liked this one best. "River" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 140 cm).
I guess I made this painting as a kind of reaction to the situation we all were into. It didn't help much though… "STOP!" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 170 x 170 cm).
Being cooped up inside all the time started to drive me mad. Luckily I had Gin, my pal, my buddy, my trusted studio dog. You just can't stay inside all day when you had a dog. Lucky me.
At least walking with your dog didn't feel like a lockdown. "Perfect Fit!" (From the series "Walking with Gin").
"Mushroom Flowers" (From the series "Walking with Gin").
"Oasis" (From the series "Walking with Gin").
Because I got out of materials to paint, like oil paints and big sized canvases, I found and old box full of used oil-sticks. Of course, you can't make drippings like in the paintings, so I switched into a comparable hand gestures, like in this small painting "Heather" (oil stick on canvas, 40 x 60 cm). It where the perfect go-between paintings for what came next…
When Words Feel - When hand gestures became words.
I had to admit, my appetite for making painting diminished by each day in this fucking lockdown. I never had any "blank canvas syndrome" in my life nor any lack of inspiration but what now slipped into my mind like a slow working poison was different, it just drained all my energy and lust for life, drip by drip.
How to put in words-signs-drawings how this lockdown felt like? "Pandemic" (acrylic & oil stick on paper, 75 x 110 cm).
And to top it off, there was the "I Can't Breathe!" movement that triggered the Black Lives Matter movement. It was as they say - the straw that broke the camel's back. "I can't breathe!" (oil stick on paper, 75 x 110 cm).
And so I became more and more interested in using words as signs.
What I meant with that was, if you paint a sunrise, you could paint a sunrise with the word sunrise. Sort of. "Sunrise" (acrylic & oil stick on paper, 75 x 110 cm).
And yes, my energy kept leaking. "Drip Drip Splash!" (acrylic & oil stick on paper, 75 x 110 cm).
You can't draw a ghost but you could name it. "Ghost" (oil stick on paper, 75 x 110 cm).
As I discovered, there were many ways to integrate writing into a painting (and many ways to repaint a painting). "Paradise Lost" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 150 cm).
"Apple Tree" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 150 cm).
And of course, even in these word-paintings, Bruegel wasn't far away. "The Fall of the Rebel Angels" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 150 cm).
By that time, even with the depressing circumstances of the pandemic, I really got the hang of this word-for-images thing.
A window, outside the window it's raining. Heavy rain, water is rising. There is a flood. "Looking Out At The Storm" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 175 x 200 cm).
The word "sunrise" is rising like the sun. "Sunrise" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 150 cm).
From the "Into The Wild" series onward I no longer "painted" the words, I scratched them in the still wet surface. Scratching into wet paint maid it even more a part of the work. Things were getting tense in my life, the act of scratching lighted up the mood somewhat, just as the pandemic lockdown got a bit lighter halfway thru the year. How easily we were fooled (by our own desires).
Do you know that moment, just before the storm, when the sky gets dark, the air seemed heavy and the birds are sitting silently on the branches? "Before the Storm" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 170 x 170 cm).
Small things that burn and bite! "Fire Ants" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm).
The plagues of Egypt, certainly a good metaphor for that year's situation. "Locusts - Ex.10:4-20" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 190 x 190 cm).
Numbers were like words, in a way. "Painting By Numbers - Autumn" (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 80 cm).
To be continued...