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Jan Willem Van Welzenis doesn’t really have a style, there are themes and similarities throughout his pieces, but I don’t think that he is invested enough in the trending movements of the contemporary fine art world to give a shit about have “a style”. Is he doing pop art? Is he making modern paintings? Perhaps rehashing and paying homage to past artists? Well, maybe, but I doubt he cares. Welzenis is into makes paintings and art, that’s about it when it comes to defining him. He’ll pull from here and from there but once the brush hits canvas it’s pure tactile transfer of mind to esthetic. What comes of this is images that emote subconscious you can see all of his thoughts and memories in the paint, every bit of anger and sadness, every childhood woe and current success. If Impressionists weren’t too busy huffing lead paint, and post-modern artists didn’t get all junked out they might have produced something similar but not the same, because his work tells his story, which in this narrative includes his beliefs on our current society, and it’s faults and victories. So what do you do when you see a person encased in brush strokes? You track ’em down and force them to answer as many questions as possible.
Elements of Modern art and Graffiti movements seem to be present in your paintings particularly 70’s NY style tags. Is that an intentional incorporation or a coincidental resemblance?
You’re right. As a teenager I was interested in graffiti. Friends from school used to bomb trains with graffiti and for a short time I made graffiti myself. I remember the thrill and how I had to work quickly. In no time my name was scattered around my hometown. I guess that looking at the graffiti kings shaped my style and it still does.
Have you ever experimented with any digital based art. It seems like it would be an interesting medium for your style. Do you have any thoughts on the digital art movement?
Although I’ve only seen new digital art on the net –Dutch galleries nervously keep this medium at a distance, I don’t really appreciate it.
I never experimented with digital art and I think it doesn’t go well with my intuitive style. Show me the texture of the surface, the harshness of a pencil scratch and the oil running on the paper. Where are the messy fingerprints? Painting should make me dirty. I want colors to drip from my hands.
New digital art is like a dated faltering computer-game or a Maneki Neko – a Japanese lucky charm fluttering behind the window. At first sight, its movement and colors are quite intriguing, but soon this kinetic cat becomes annoying.
Do you predesign your paintings or is something that you just kind of begin and expand upon as you work?
Though I do have thoughts before I begin, these vanish when I actually start painting. While mucking things up something new arises.
Your color choices sometimes seem very eighties party movement neon and then at other times they have this adversarial clash/battle is there a emotion or story that goes into these differences or are they esthetic choices? or a mixture?
My work is strongly connected to my mood, but a major part of it is under the surface. Like today might be a rainy, lazy day and I might feel the same way. But my painting may come out as jolly and exotic. I wander through my emotions, but I cannot grasp them. It is a mystery isn’t it?
My colors are kind of eighties-style, which is the time period when I grew up. Painting like Per Kirkeby was my worst nightmare at Art Academy. I want to paint bright colors like the light blue Hobema skies, like the yellow color of our trains, or like the soft pink skin of a blonde lady, on my white canvas – a canvas as white as our plastered Dutch church walls.
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As a dutch painter with an international audience via the internet do you find that there are differing reactions and receptions to your work depending on the area? Are there any specific cities or regions that have a greater appreciation or demand for your pieces?
The net enables an artist from a tiny country to show his work all over the world. New York is the no. 1 city of the viewers of my website; London is 2nd, Paris 3rd, Rome 4th, and Moscow 5th. But also from far and remote places I get personal reactions to my work, which is so encouraging! My paintings are now hanging above an Italian sofa, a Canadian chimney-piece, in a Polish kitchen and a Manhattan penthouse.
The fact that Americans make up three-quarters of my audience must be a continuing legacy of famous expressionist painters from the past. Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko grew big in America. Holland is historically more interested in realistic scenes. Think of the Flemish artist Jan van Eijk, the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt and Piet Mondrian, though his work was very abstract.
On that note have you only shown in your own country? Or have you branched out into other areas? Are there any plans to go international?
I’ve been painting for ten years now, but I’ve only started to show my work to the greater public in the last year and a half. I’ve exhibited in Amsterdam, my hometown Dordrecht and in England (Bristol). Currently, my international audience is expanding so I hope one day soon I’ll show my work abroad. That would be great!
Do you have any experience or interest in art work that follows a more traditional form and structure? How do you feel about the literal images presented by photographic and video work? Do you ever apply your acrylic styles to those mediums (I know that you’ve mixed it with text/paper images)? I think that with the right photographer it could be a yield interesting results.
I appreciate traditional painting and I can be really moved by it. But most of all I like artworks to be open and leave me with questions.
I’m not that interested in video-art but I like photography as long as it’s got humor in it. Like the dog-world that William Wegman portrays in his pictures.
Painting over images can create a great effect, like Arnulf Rainer’s work. I made a few collages myself, but I’d be interested to work on a large-scale. Imagine a wall-sized picture of a Charlotte Dumas horse.
Speaking of the text images do you pick it based on aesthetic, content or some other thing that I’m not able to discern? Does the addition of the more off white tones and black ink have an effect on the color and stylistic choices used?
When I use text images it’s always aesthetic and less often because of the content. My love for typography dates back to my job as a graphic designer at a printing office. Text is stiff and playful at the same time. Letters each have an interesting shape, like the dynamic and ongoing ‘s’, the sexy italic ‘f’, the ‘y’ with its curling tail and the ‘w’ which looks like a fatal trap.
When it comes down to content I’ve used text images to illustrate an internal battle; my ambivalent feelings for religious traditions. I come from a strict Protestant background.
You seem to have more to sway mostly back and forth between strong brushstrokes full canvas images and wispy thin and open work. Is there a reason for the stark contrast (a couple of your works do spit the difference and combine but those tend to be fewer in number from what I can see)? You’ve also mixed both of those styles together on occasion how does that change the approaches to each part.
Though I understand your question, I don’t totally agree with it. I believe that both techniques are the same in essence. Nearly all my works have one thing in common: that there’s blank space to see – meaning, the paper isn’t filled up. As a child I used to draw figures, like an armored knight or a Red Indian standing next to a horse. They would stand alone. No grass, no water or desert but only white paper surrounding them, and perhaps a cloud or a sun above their head. To many people my drawings seemed unfinished. And I think I still paint in this way; an abstract five-legged beast in an empty space, with a nymph at its feet.
The vibrance and strength in your pieces makes me imagine or recall post punk and new wave music stylings, it has a raw power to it with a pop and intelligent influence, do you have any interest in these genres? I’m always trying to match music to artists’ work.
Actually I listen to all kinds of music but I recall the times when I was an admirer of only specific kinds of music. The past years I frequently listened to Baroque music. Looking back, the few works I made in that time were quite rigid. Recently I came back to Sonic Youth. The funky guitars and the singing voice of Kim Gordon make me paint in a way that resembles scratching nails or the feeling of a warm kiss.
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The work also reminds me of the literary works of post modern authors and beatnik movements, almost a visual homage to stream of consciousness. Would you say that there are similarities in your work and process to those genre’s? Are you a reader yourself and if so what kind of work are you in to?
In fact, I do love to read. During the period that I listened to Baroque music, I read Kafka’s books, Kierkengaard’s philosophy, religious books about Messianism and Zionism and the history of the Great War. But I needed to ease up. Fascinated by Vincent van Gogh, I read a few biographies and books about his letters. While listening to New wave music, I started painting again myself. Unrestrained, free works of art.
At the moment I’m reading books by Italo Calvino which are curious fantasy stories he writes with uncensored imagination.
Where do you plan to go artistically will you be expanding or changing anything as you progress, I know as artists we have both a desire to explore and a penchant for nostalgia, would you say that one is stronger than the other in your case?
Every time I make a new work, I erase the memory of my prior works from my head. I strive for every new work to be more powerful than the ones before.
I’m a huge fan of paper and I spent years drawing on paper. Nowadays I’m using more paint and ink and I want to work more on canvas. I’m like a pupil in progress.
This question is kind of out there, but here it goes. If you could construct a society based upon your images, something that doesn’t have to be utopian just representative how would it appear and what would be some characteristics of it?
The first thought that pops into my mind: lots of animals. Bizarre animals.
If you’d like to see more of Jan’s work (you do):