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Abstract portrait of woman, No 5

70 by 100 cm - oils and acrylics on paper

The paintings I made in 1998 and 1999 represent an intense period of abstract discovery. With a feeling of considerable insecurity and excitement I made these paintings, until at some point the insecurity vanished and with it the excitement. I stopped painting for....one, or one and a half years and when I resumed I made paintings like Mailman and Woman and Abstract Art Portrait of American Homeless Man. The geometry in these paintings is more complex, less angular, more round. Along with these paintings I started on a series of paintings which I have been unable to complete so far, perhaps because they represent the transition to the more complex geometry and I bit off more than I could chew.
I started Abstract Portrait No 5 in 2005 and finished it in 2006, which is fast to my current standards. The relative simplicity of the painting may suggest I'm coming to grips with the new style.
During the second phase of my activities (after the break), I started to use acrylic modelling paste, applied with a palette knife. The advantage of using different media is that it breaks up the monotonous rhythm of an overworked painting. If one adds to that a different way of applying the paint, then effects very different to traditional oil painting may be achieved. For me, using the palette knife with oil paint doesn't work out, because (in the way I use it) the knife doesn't leave it's footprint in the paint. An expressionist wants his tools to leave their mark, so I tried modeling paste, which is a thick acrylic substance.
The modeling paste I was using at the time is quite opaque and the effect it produces is one of "dryness", as may be seen in the pink area, below-right in the painting. This has it's advantages, but more expressive effects can be obtained by using a somewhat more transparent paste - the yellow areas below and above the eye were obtained by mixing the opaque modeling paste with transparent gel medium.

The color yellow

In painting the color yellow has a special place. It's the lightest color, representing clarity. A famous proponent of the color yellow is Vincent van Gogh, who sacrificed his health for what he called: "...being able to reach his high yellow note." Ideally, the last color I use on a painting is yellow. All my paintings have the color yellow, but if I can finish a painting by using yellow, then it will have a communicative quality that it won't have otherwise. In "Abstract portrait No 5" I was able to do that. Quite boringly the painting is called "Abstract portrait No 5", because I haven't been able to come up with a better title yet. I'm open to suggestions!


I would like a painting to be a musical experience, like the fourth part of Mahler's first symphony. While a piece of music is transient and a painting represents eternity, in it's immovable stillness, music is life itself, while a painting just a reflection of it. Music has to be recreated, either by the performing musicians, or by a mechanical process initiated and maintained by humans. Once it has been created, a painting just is, a sovereign, silent testimony of life.


Yes, this painting has become another "Picassoism", a style not directly derived from the Picasso's style, but nevertheless related. When I started painting I knew just as little about Picasso as the average person does, but his style has become such a part of our culture that just by following the lessons of your upbringing, you become a "Picassoist". Here it has to be understood that the Picasso style is a summary of modern art, so Picasso represents much more than just Picasso.
So, for now, I'm stuck with my Picasso-related style and I don't think I should worry about it. What matters is the artistic meaning of an artwork, what it expresses - a style is just a medium. As time passes, the intrinsic artistic meaning of an artwork takes precedence over contemporary considerations. The art of oil painting was over 200 hundred years old when Rembrandt started to paint, but today nobody thinks he owes a debt to Jan van Eyk, who was the first to use oils in painting. I certainly feel indebted to Picasso, which is why I have started to write a Picasso biography, and modern art is indebted to Picasso and Picasso is indebted to modern art. So in art everybody is endebted to everybody and dues are paid by the creation of artworks.

Picasso has been and remains the guiding light in art. The more I learn about him, the more I'm impressed by his dedication to art. Just like Picasso was guided by Cézanne, probably not so much for his painting technique, but rather for his spirit and dedication to art.

Hopefully in this tradition, the Abstract Portrait painting is "bien couillarde".

Of related interest - site map

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