Latino     "Latino"

  oil on canvas h82 x w102cm,
  January 2005

Working from a photograph of a man in a hat (yes, another hat), I planned to do a group of people in the style of the well-known image from Visconti's film Novecento. After I had finished my first man on canvas I drew more figures in charcoal but discovered that the picture became weaker rather than stronger. One figure was plenty, so the others disappeared again behind the next layer of paint, apart from one ghostly image. And that smoke on the horizon: what happened there?

Babylon: the Maze     "Babylon: the Maze"

  oil on canvas 2x h73 x w53cm,
  February 2005

In my circle of fellow-painters the theme 'Babylon' was put forward, and everybody could do his own interpretation of the theme. Some research soon yielded a flood of ideas and concepts waiting to be converted into images. You can think of Babylon as a dreamt-up, ideal city that came to ruin, where the Tower of Babel, presumptuously intended to reach from earth to heaven, was built and destroyed a number of times. God punished the Babylonians for their megalomania by confusing the language of the builders (Gen. 11:1-9). Painting a skyscraper did not excite me very much, as it had been done so many times since the 11th century, so I chose for the confusion of tongues. As a symbol of this I painted a wild and confusing background in the middle of the two canvases and projected a maze over it with an episcope. In the four corners I projected clear, realistic faces of people talking into their mobile phones. An intentional contrast between clarity and confusion. Even though we can now communicate with each other in any location, the quality of our communication does not necessarily improve. It is doubtful that mobile communication is a God-sent heavenly goody, because of its sometimes limited reach, the commercial exploitation and the interminable flood of offers and possibilities. Where will technology lead us and will our lives improve because of it, or will we simply be fleeced by business in our hunt for more, more, more?

Babylon: Skydiver     "Babylon: Skydiver"

  paper op hardboard and acrylic paint on perspex h67 x w61cm,
  March 2005

This 'Babylon' painting is based on the idea that you can reach an ideal by shaping your world well, e.g. The Tower of Babel was meant to literally reach heaven. In order to prevent chaos building activities have to be steered, so town and country planning legislation is drafted. There are municipal building inspectors, city architects and landscape architects, and the Netherlands even has a government architect. Although all this is meant to plan and shape our living space as well as possible, it does not mean that we live in an ideal environment. Everybody's ideal is different. The common townsman, the farmer, the politician, the artist, the entrepreneur, the contractor, the property developer and the environmentalist, they all speak their own language and have their own interests. No wonder that the interests clash. No wonder that our environment sometimes oppresses us. No wonder that we sometimes want to escape. Thinking of urban development in the Netherlands I envisioned regulation-compatible but unfit-to-live-in urbanisation, in which every green patch of land had vanished and only the blue sky was left. Look at the map of this dreamt-up conurbation and imagine what life is like there. The parachutist now still has plenty of space, but the lower he drops the more stifling it gets. It is clear that he will not land in a field but probably on concrete.
Actually making this piece of art did not take weeks (as usual) but months of thinking and tinkering. I started with a sheet of hardboard that I prepared with gesso on both sides. On the front I pasted pieces of city maps from an outdated Dutch city street guidebook, forging a brotherly union of Dutch towns and cities. It was a hellish job, because I wanted streets, motorways and railways to interconnect into one coherent whole. To prevent the hardboard from becoming warped I pasted paper on the back as well, but not just any paper: A4 prints of town and country planning legislation. They are symbolically on the back, as all legislation invisible to the onlooker but nevertheless present in the background. I added volume to the hardboard sheet with MDF strips. The parachutist now hovering over the city was not an idea I had from the start but gradually arose as a strong visual image of rising above all earthly things. Because a parachutist obviously descends rather than ascends it may seem that I thought of Icarus, but this is not the case. Space and flying freely were my only thoughts. The fact that the thought 'what goes up must come down' ties in well with the history of the Tower of Babel had not occurred to me at first but is a nice coincidence. Once I had a good picture to paint I considered it a pity to paint direct onto the pasted paper, because then the pattern of streets would be partly obscured. Then the idea came up to paint on a transparent sheet of Perspex mounted a few centimetres in front of the hardboard sheet. This would not only create visible space, but it would also symbolise the multi-layer nature of the work. With some help I found out how to do this technically, drilling holes and countersinking screw-bolts. Because oil paint affixes poorly to perspex, I was forced to use acrylic paint. Acrylic paint being a first for me I did a number of tests painting a parachutist on old panes of glass, also to find out whether to paint on the front or on the back of the pane. Painting on the back would mean best protection of the image, but this did not yield a pleasing picture, so I had to use the vulnerable front side. I projected the parachutist with an episcope, drew the outline, sanded the perspex within the outlines for better grip for the paint, and finally applied the paint. After assembling the four screw-bolts in the corners, my job was finished, at last...

Drummers at the Gate, still     "Drummers at the Gate, still"

  oil on MDF board h45 x w66cm,
  April 2005

At first sight just a nice tourist picture of two authentic drummers in traditional garb. It could be Morocco or another warm country, and the gate they are standing in front of is part of an ancient city wall in ruins. If this is an archaeological site, we think it is beautiful, but suppose the wall was destroyed in a recent or ongoing war, it is another story altogether. And what is that alarming smoke in the background (also see "Latino")? Is it just a factory ignoring emission laws or perhaps a smoke signal from a suicide bomber? The positive suggestion of my title is that whatever happens and how much a people may suffer, the national character - the traditions - will not be destroyed. Folklore will survive, no matter what.

The Drinks are Finished     "The Drinks are Finished"

  oil on 4 panels of plywood 4x h42 x w32cm,
  mei 2005

Well, that's it then. The party is over and the room first full of people is now very empty. A few empty bottles and glasses remind us of the drinking binge, and the two people in the picture have to get ready for the next ordinary day. After seeing a documentary about Francis Bacon, who is a master at suggesting enormous space in his paintings, I thought it would be a good idea to leave a lot open in the four panels. I have used the idea of not filling in spaces before in "Older", "Cocooned I", "Cocooned II" and "Latino".

Something in the Depth     "Something in the Depth"

  oil on canvas h83 x w103cm,
  september 2005

There must be something down there, but what it is remains unclear and out of view. Still, it seems to be worthwhile reaching for, otherwise this man would not go to such lengths to get at it. All of all sometimes try to reach things that are actually beyond our reach.

Rolls Rappers, Cool Ya     "Rolls Rappers, Cool Ya"

  oil on canvas h93 x w63cm,
  november 2005

Small boys, small car toys, big boys big, caddish cars. Boys will be boys, and some like seeing their car as a reflection of their ego and success. Especially black rapper music videos feature scantily dressed women, gaudy golden jewellery and very expensive cars as status symbols for showy black males ('Look what I got!'). It's all about 'tits & ass , 'bling' and 'vroom'. And that's it. In this context of trite macho behaviour and vulgarity even the smartest and most stylish automobiles are reduced to cars fit for pimps.

Explosions     "Explosion"

  oil on canvas h83 x w103cm,
  december 2005

This time I have made a moving image, or more correctly an image suggesting motion (rather than emotion). Depicting stationary people only isn't everything there is, is it? The shock wave of some explosion blows this man off his feet. If it is just an explosion of colour, things are not so bad at all, but if it is another sort of explosion, the man's fate is more precarious. Just as with "Something in the Depth" I first made a small drawing, put a grid over it and then blew it up to gigantic proportions.

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