The image matters after all

verfHans den Hartog Jager is a lucky man. He got to talk to Reinier Lucassen, well known for his reclusive lifestyle, for his book ‘verf’ (‘paint’), a wonderful collection of interviews with modern day Dutch painters. Highly recommended.

Lucassen told Den Hartog Jager how much he dislikes realistic painting and the emphasis on making a proper representation of reality in the entire western art tradition from the 15th century until the 20th century. In his eyes only a few great artists like Vermeer, Van Eyck, Rembrandt and Van Goyen, managed to ascend this ‘representing reality’ level, and created something more personal – the work of a genius.

Lucassen - Hommage à Léger, 1968Though Lucassen dislikes representations, he does love images. When Lucassen sees an art work that strikes him, he is drawn to it,  immediately knows it’s good, even if he has no words to explain why. The image speaks for itself. In modern art every artist has to find his own way to express himself (which reminds me – is it actually true he thinks women should not be artists?), which of course is very hard to do. Each time an artist truly finds a new way, he is followed, built upon and before you know it a new modern academy-style is born. It comes as no surprise that Lucassen and artists around him were not too eager to ride the wave of abstract-expressionist art in the sixties. The taboo on figurative work must have been just as restrictive to them  as the directive to correctly represent reality was to him in his academy years. Lucassen became one of the front men of the Nieuwe Figuratie (New Figuration). In his paintings popular elements like Donald Duck or a hot dog would show up. He would play with traditional painterly illusions by leaving parts of the canvas uncovered, using text or having people pop up unexpectedly on the painting.

Shoes - drawing I did in art class some years agoI like what Lucassen says about realistic painting. When I started taking art classes I was very eager to learn how to draw, but after a while it became clear to me that making a realistic representation was something I could just learn, and if I had wanted to I could get better and better at it, eventually turning myself into a calendar artist, making pretty pictures. It stopped me in my tracks. Although I would still love to improve my drawing and painting skills I am so glad I came to Dogtime to work, play and learn.