Technique and Construction
In the early 1980s modernism became less popular. I considered reverting to realism and to a more traditional style, but how? To unquestioningly grope back to the past was not an option. After all, Picasso, Matisse, Mondriaan, New York School and Minimal Art had become an integral part of my work.
As a successful photographer my artistic production gave me room for experiment and growth. My knowledge of photographic effects, such as ‘flare’, had influenced my painting.
The answer to my ‘quest’ for the perfect technique came in 1988. Inspired by computer games I decided to use small squares and paint them one by one, layer after layer. By treating them all separately, however time-consuming, I could give each of them its own individual colour, tone, and intensity. It enabled me to move from rough brush strokes to a detailed surface and even from a figurative to an abstract style.
Finally, I had found common ground between abstract painting as a style and a discontinuous image construction and tone fluctuation. In short: a modern image construction without the use of a computer. A bull’s eye, for I am convinced that the traditional, intuitive way of working has something that the computer has not: life.
In 1988 I began playing with the idea of making a series of paintings about the 20th century, especially about those who had dominated it. What about the rise and fall of people in power, the ideologies of some politicians and their supporters? This had always fascinated me. Why is it that one and the same man will be considered a hero in one system and, simultaneously, a criminal in the other? What makes a baby grow into a mass murderer? Genetics? Upbringing? Demons?
Some 20th century images can be of a gruesome beauty. Today some of them may even evoke a smile. Their imperfections, due to old preservation techniques, may add to their attraction.
I like unusual, questionable contrasts of evil with beauty and horror with beauty.
Images of the bombing and shelling of Iraq can be shocking and fascinating at the same time. Or think of Leni Riefenstahl’s intriguing pictures of Nazi mass meetings and the Führer’s orations in The Third Reich.
All this inspired me into creating this series. It was a challenge to use my own technique to modify the sometimes horrific details (e.g. NAM) or synthesize them (e.g. Destiny) into my most striking and glamorous painting ever.
Of course this is not a complete picture of the 20th century. I just want to emphasize a few ‘moments’ and gracefully interpret or question them. Intuitively, I always try to resolve contrasting themes as if they were a puzzle. This is what I have attempted to do with the 20th century images.