Wednesday 29 March 2017

More paintings you have never seen (4)

More paintings you have never seen (4)

"Is this a dagger which I see before me?" The Ghost of the murdered King of Denmark from Shakespeare's Hamlet fades in and fades out of my projected kinetic painting, while the very concerned eye watches throughout for further deceit, crime and tragedy. Whose eye is it? Well, it's complicated - everybody is watching everybody else. What else is new?

In 2009 I joined the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra with Shostakovich's Hamlet Suite as part of a music-theatre education programme in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. At one point the dagger plunged right off my 9 x 6 metre screen through the conductor's white jacket, blood splatters and all. I told him in advance: "this is not going to hurt, ha-ha". Then, when the music stopped, the Ghost and my painting disappeared for ever. The thing about my kinetic visuals is that you will never see them live again, except in your mind's eye. This art form only exists in real time.
But of course (sigh) 1200 kids got them on their iPhones. 

Is this not another way to fire up the imagination of young people and give them an insight into drama and music that they might otherwise experience as too obscure? 

Sunday 26 March 2017

More paintings you have never seen (3)

Paintings you have never seen (3)

It's not even signed, but this study (acrylic on canvas,130 x 80 cm) has the spontaneity of an experiment, full of the excitement of a 1987 commission from the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra as a gift to the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague. The new theatre (sadly now demolished) had a very wide stage of 18 metres. Merging representation and abstraction, I wanted to show the relationship between the conductor and musicians in the pit (lower right), and the dancers who come leaping on to the stage after waiting in the wings (right) then moving off (left). 

The black vertical line is the first indication of my wish to have the dancers "break out of the box" in some way. That eventually resulted in a decision to divide the painting into panels, like irregular stepping stones, or rather jumping stones, a rhythmic design telling its own story, floating free from the wall.

A major inspiration for this painting was Jirí Kylián's Sinfonietta (to the music with the same title by Janáček). Choreographed in 1978, this great work became a cornerstone of NDT's repertoire. And Jirí (who celebrated his seventieth birthday this week) became a major inspirational force in my watercolours with dance throughout the eighties, like this one.
Sinfonietta, watercolour and oil pastel, 50 x 70 cm, 1986/87

Here's the first photoshoot of the mural, acrylic on board, seven metres long, freshly installed in the Netherlands Dance Theatre in 1989. Yes, that's the dancers' studio mirror below. 

(Photo: Ben Vollebregt)

You can find my story of the glorious years working in the NDT dance studios in an earlier blog: The Case of the Lost PaintingAll eight sections of the mural are now safely in storage in my studio. How wonderful it would be to exhibit it somewhere again!

Friday 24 March 2017

More paintings you have never seen (2)

More paintings you have never seen (2)

Revelling in the organic unity of mist and watercolour, in the sixties, seventies and eighties I spent much time in nature, painting outdoors when possible. I enjoyed making these spaces and shapes my own, usually focussing on the horizon and the subtle undulating rhythms, like pianissimo whispering sounds. 

One of my quiet vistas from Vancouver Island in 1986, allowing my watercolours to change with the weather moods.

After a climb, the gaze back down the road to a small town in Burgundy, nestling in its misty autumn valley. Ah, I can still taste those wines! (1983)

The endless minimal music of Venetian gondolas, as they wait, bobbing their irregular overlapping rhythms behind the San Marco cathedral. My paper was sodden with moisture. Too bad I don't have a colour photo, but the watercolour is almost monochrome. (1972).

The fence poles pace out my walk along the dyke of one of the quiet Frisian lakes. Poco a poco diminuendo. Was it in the summer of 1978?

Monday 20 March 2017

Paintings you have never seen (1)

Paintings you have never seen (1)

You can see over 150 paintings on my website ( But hundreds of other works have never been seen online and may remain unseen forever in my archives. So while I still have the chance, I would like to share with you what is for me a rather poignant retrospective selection. I look back affectionately on some of these early or immature works that show my search for development during well over half a century. A few are still in my studio, but most are in private collections worldwide, so they may never be exhibited. These include oils and watercolours, not only of musical themes and snapshots of live kinetic painting in performance, but also landscapes, portraits, and paintings of dance. So here goes:

I met the young cellist Edith Neuman in The Hague in 1965 when she was playing briefly in the Collegium Musicum Judaicum. Shortly afterwards she started her career in the Concertgebouw Orchestra. I asked if I could paint her and she took me to her attic room in Amsterdam and played the Bach Suites for me, as I started on the 80 x 60 cm. oil painting (above). This lively impressionist painting was made by a young man who has obviously fallen in love with his subject. I was thirty-two, she was twenty-two. But I was married and fortunately she had other ideas. My only option was to make another painting, more thoughtful and well balanced. Already, in these works from 1965 and 1966, you can see my early interest in placing silhouetted shapes on a diagonal in space. After he opened my Gstaad Festival exhibition in 1971, Yehudi Menuhin stood for the longest time in front of No. 2, asking "But who is she?". Good question. She's a remarkable woman.

Twelve years later Edith became good friends with my second wife, Vivian King - depicted (below) with a new kind of freedom in watercolour. When my beloved Vivian tragically died, Edith bought her cello and is still playing it today, with much joy. What a world of emotion is encompassed in these three paintings!

Vivian King, watercolour 70 x 50 cm. (detail), approx. 1979

P.S. I wish I knew where Edith No. 1 is now. Paintings get passed on and you lose track.