I started the new year with a fresh walk on the beach (with my dog). The view was quite dramatic. Let's hope this new year won't be like that... Or maybe it should be.
I did make an decision though. From that moment on I would mainly focus on painting. As interesting as other projects were (such as graphic novels, set designs or other designs), the mere fact that they were interesting was the danger of them and a huge distraction from the work that really mattered to me.
The basis of all my work over the past 37 years has always been the silhouette. Amazing how versatile this concept has been for me.
I used traditional historical subjects such as portraits, nudes and landscapes, I used them because it helps me focus on (the) painting itself.
For me the How in painting was much more important than the What.
Overflowing into the new year, I finished the last of the portrait series.
Black Carmine (Oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 140 cm, 2022).
What made this series slightly different from the previous ones was the painted rough outline as well as the four sides. The idea behind this was that a painting was also an object.
I even painted a self-portrait, not something I did regularly. I probably wanted to prove that all these works were real portraits. (For those who know me, judge for yourself.)
Self Portrait (Oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
I also made a few landscapes, but with a twist. Tunnel was a "portrait" of a work I made in 2021. This time, however, not only with a roughly painted outline and sides, but a painting of a painting, both to make the viewer aware of the fact that a painting is both a 2 and a 3 dimensional object.
Tunnel (Oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 150 cm, 2022).
Every new year (it seems) I tended to do a series of fur paintings. These were an intricate part of my body of work and gave me the chance to ask different questions to get new answers.
The fur portrait series could also easily be a fairy tale, which was a different kind of reality for me.
Little Red Riding Hood (Oil & glaze medium on artificial fur, 175 x 190 cm, 2022).
But most of the fur paintings were after real scenes or at least inspired by reality.
Roadside (Oil & glaze medium on artificial fur, 148 x 170 cm, 2022).
Like this painting where I tried to evoke a forest after a fire.
Afterglow (Oil & glaze medium on artificial fur, 160 x 185 cm).
The last series (of the fur paintings) was the black series. These paintings were all monochromatic, at least in the sense that the top layer of color was black, regardless of the underlying colors, which still shimmered through the black. In this case turquoise.
The Forest (Oil & glaze medium on artificial fur, 136 x 170 cm).
Golden Cut was a bit of a one-off. It was entirely based on the golden ratio and was (for the time being) the last work in this series.
Golden Cut (Acrylic & gold paint on artificial fur, 104 x 168 cm, 2022).
These were a series of paintings that attempted to capture the individuality of landscapes.
Around Tongeren (originally called Atuatuca), where I was born, there used to be a lot of cornfields. That's probably why this image pops up all the time in my work.
I decided to paint on a black background. It made the color appear deeper.
Before starting a new painting, I worked it out in my head (or on paper/iPad) as much as possible. Then when I did the actual painting, I was able to zoom in on the details where the real action takes place without losing the overall concept. It could yield interesting details. This was the real reason I painted in the first place.
This painting, as so often in my work, is inspired by Bruegel (the Elder).
Harvesting (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2022).
Rows of Flowerbeds, a painting that tried to capture the uniqueness of the landscape through pure color.
Flowerbeds (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 176 x 200 cm, 2022).
These colorfield portraits attempted to capture individuality without the annoyance of recognition. By which I meant that recognition stood in the way of looking at the painting itself.
In war there are only casualties (and the first is the truth). Based on a war photo of a young Ukrainian boy.
War (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 170 x 175 cm, 2022).
My sister sent me a moving photo of my mother, who has Alzheimer's, resting blissfully unaware of her 91st birthday. I had to paint it.
The Forgotten Birthday (oil & glaze medium on canvas,195 x 231 cm, 2022).
Studio shot of some portraits and landscapes on March 29, 2022. While they may not looked it at first glance, they were all silhouette-based paintings.
Two series of portraits. The first based on the five elements and a second on the four seasons.
Faces (oil & glaze medium on canvas, each 40 x 60 cm, 2022).
Then finally a group of paintings that I almost finished like in a dream. (Or certainly in a very short time.) The Opera series of six fairly large paintings was not based on any specific opera, but more on its overall thrill.
This one is my personal favourite.
Whispers (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2022).
Despite not intending to do anything other than painting (and maybe some sculpting), I was persuaded to do another set design. So I did, albeit with a minimal investment of valuable time.
In the design there was certainly a direct connection with my colorfield series.
The play: A single woman's apartment, after the party. One girl stayed, she doesn't want to leave for some reason. A back and forth conversation ensues between the two women. Why doesn't the girl want to leave and who is she...?
Monkey Puzzle Tree (red gauze cloth, semi-transparent, five walls perpendicular to the audience and background covering, floor in white).
In March I went to the Baselitz retrospective in Paris. Definitely one of my favorite painters. You can't go to such a retrospective without being inspired by it.
Or at least lines that behave like surfaces.
Changing course in painting was usually not abrupt, it just seemed that way. Since May 2022, I've been picking up an old idea while looking at it through the eyes of what happened between then and now.
Interpreting a landscape with (seemingly) only lines was quite a challenge if you were used to thinking in volumes and colours.
Into The Valley (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 174,5 x 200 cm, 2022).
Although it felt a bit unfamiliar at first, it quickly became a way of seeing that (for me) opened up new possibilities in painting. After all, it was still a variation of the silhouette.
Hitachi Seaside Park (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2022).
Although I started with lines in just one color, much like a drawing, I filled in the rest with white paint as a background that was tinted by the color of the lines.
Summer (after Matisse, oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2022).
Empty did not mean empty, not in painting. Interiors, including empty ones, had their own individuality, just like portraits and landscapes.
Cornered (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
This painting was titled Heaven. It occurred to me that a modern gold frame was worth a try.
Heaven (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2022).
Lines didn't have to be black to exist (as lines).
Single (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2022).
I reintroduced some facial features here and there, but only if it made sense for the composition. So if one eye makes more sense than two, I'll just paint one eye.
In The Moment (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
I didn't necessarily use facial features. Like in this work where I first painted the vampire's eye and mouth, but then removed it to make him more invasive.
Vampire (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 2022).
And sometimes all I wanted to say was in the hand gesture.
Redhead (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
I even did a portrait of my good pal Gin.
Gin (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
At the end of July I had quite a collection of portraits and interiors.
During that same period (April to August), I continued to test each new development in the same three large paintings over and over, discovering more questions and possibilities with each answer. It was a labor intensive but very satisfying process.
Momentum (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2022).
My daughter playing hide and seek.
Peekaboo! (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 170 x 200 cm, 2022).
So far I filled the background with white paint, now I started using color but painted the whole background first.
Depending on the background color that determined the color of the lines, I did them wet in wet.
The Embrace, Hiding (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
All these works were made after (photos of) real people.
Shame, Portrait In Orange, The Dream, Cyclops (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
I tried different versions of the same portrait depending on my mood.
The Mood, Purple Blues (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
With or without facial features, anything was possible.
At The Gardens (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
As I mentioned before, sometimes all I wanted to say was in the hand gesture.
Blue Nude (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
My work has always balanced between figuration and abstraction. To me, the two were neither mutually exclusive nor contradictory. You could create an abstraction of reality, or you could create an abstraction related to that same reality. Same difference, so to speak.
Figuration or abstraction? Until then, I let the subject determine the degree of abstraction. Then I decided to turn the table and let abstraction guide the story. Which in my case meant that the color lines followed exactly what I think/feel at the time.
Blondie (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
There were many ways of abstraction, many of figuration, but they were all factual. In a sense, you could say that neither abstraction nor concrete exist. The moment they (or it) were shown, they became substantial. In that sense, a painting by Rothko was as real as a depiction of a landscape or emotion. But that also meant that every figuration became abstract the moment it was painted. Not that all of this mattered, it was always about the painting itself.
Girl With Ponytail (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2022).
Always look at a painting in detail.
The Red Bandana (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 190 x 190 cm, 2022).
I always wondered if I could paint contemplatively. Could you paint silence?
The Silence (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 175 x 200 cm, 2022).
Was this a still life with a figure or was it a figure with a still life? The answer was probably yes.
Forbidden Fruit (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 160 x 180 cm, 2022).
Another recurring theme in my work was Babylon, mostly based on Bruegel (the Elder) and mainly because it allowed me to concentrate on the real subject, namely the landscape.
Babel Tower (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 2022).
Nature will always overshadow human existence.
Poppy Fields (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 175 x 200 cm, 2022).
Plants can be like erotic aliens.
Calla Lilies (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 165 x 200 cm, 2022).
A beautiful memory could easily become a classic subject. After all, goddesses were people too.
Venus (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 2022).
Nightlife and all its trappings and temptations.
Going Down, The Silence Of Nature (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 2022).
Then the paintings slowly began to evolve in a different direction. The lines became, as it were, more painterly, more connected to the subject. Even the background wasn't just a background anymore. In a way, the more I developed this style, the more it related to the past.
Blinded (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2022).
Since I always used the filter of photography, who needed a model when you had social media to show it all.
Ruby Blue, In The Room (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 140 cm, 2022).
You could see these three paintings as sort of Instagram chronology these days.
Instagram Today, The Long Wait, Chocolate! (oil & glaze medium on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 100 x 140 cm, 100 x 150 cm, 2022).
Ruby Blue among the Wolves!
I've been using faux fur since the 90's. It's amazing what you can do with this material as a canvas. Although I wasn't working on it all year, I did make a few series, once or twice a year.
Tree Avenue (acrylic imprint on artificial fur, 129 x 152 cm, 2022).
What if I used my own body as an impression tool? The first print I made was, of course, titled Self Portrait.
Self Portrait (acrylic imprint on artificial fur, 144 x 168 cm, 2022).
Painting with your own body was actually quite fun, apart from the fact that my studio had no heating and it was freezing outside. Ouch!
No Way Out (acrylic imprint on artificial fur, 129 x 152 cm, 2022).
Cry Wolf! (acrylic imprint on artificial fur, 129 x 152 cm, 2022).
Using yourself in this way was a bit like method acting. You had to know in advance what you wanted to express and act accordingly.
Being What Is Hidden (acrylic imprint on artificial fur, 129 x 152 cm, 2022).
I thought the line paintings had something graffiti-like about it, something I explored further in sculpture.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (spray paint on honeycomb cardboard, 4 x 53 x 82 x 183 cm, 2022).
In December 2022 I started working on a series of diptychs.
It was important to know that a diptych should always be regarded as one painting consisting of two canvases and, in a sense, two spaces. Although they formed one work, there was always an uneasy relationship between the two surfaces. If you think about it, a diptych never had a center, or rather, it had two.
The way I approach a diptych was pretty straightforward (despite taking me several weeks to figure it out).
Each of the two canvases covered the entire width of the diptych, which meant I only painted half of each painting.
Flowering (diptych, oil & glaze medium on canvas, 2x 70 x 140 cm, 2022).
The relationship between the two parts continued into the subject, so that the diptych eventually became one painting.
The Dream (diptych, oil & glaze medium on canvas, 120 x 140 cm, 2022-2023).
It took my work in a whole new direction, as well as the year 2023, just the way I liked it - challenging, difficult and promising…