The portrait has taken many different forms throughout the ages, ranging from naïve to lifelike and from idealized to abstract. The paintings and sculptures in this exhibition are portraits in the broadest sense of the word. Often the subjects of these portraits cannot be traced to one specific person, but are of a more universal nature. They simultaneously adhere to a centuries-old portrait tradition and almost completely abandon it. The works of the artists below form a contemporary portrait gallery together, as ‘portraits of our time’.
‘I make portraits of my surroundings.’ Since he moved to The Hague, the setting of Verborg’s paintings has changed. Whereas it previously remained vague or was an indoor space, the city and nature now play a greater role. His theatrical processions have been reduced to just a few characters, because ‘the outside world is almost a character in itself’. The figures who confront the grand, often threatening natural world in his work are both anonymous and recognizable. ‘They transcend the individual. They don’t symbolize themselves, but mankind,’ according to Casper Verborg.
Aldwin van de Ven
‘In fact I paint myself, in response to all sorts of situations. In the end, every painting is a self-portrait of its maker.’ What Aldwin van de Ven’s figures have in common is that they are all part of the same universe. A minimalistic, misty world in which birds unsuspectingly alight on the shoulders of human figures; the hunter, the man next door, the opera singer – Aldwin portrays all of these as he sees them. ‘I stay within the bounds of a traditional portrait,’ he says. ‘A head and part of a body. But as archetypes, they represent more than one person.’
Through her portraits of people, animals and insects, Maria Britze expresses her own emotions. Although she uses photographs and makes collages to thoroughly examine her subjects beforehand, she creates the paintings themselves intuitively. Says Maria, ‘I especially research the paint and colours in order to convey my feeling in the best possible way.’ The result is expressively painted portraits that treat people, animals and insects in an equal manner.
Without exception, Jerry Kowalsky’s cardboard Pinocchio-like or masklike heads have a dystopian air about them. ‘An absurd reality, as if a head is rising up out of the ground or the water,’ he says about a huge head cut in half, titled End of a system. ‘Like a sculpture that has been knocked over after a revolution, of Saddam Hussein or Lenin for instance. It seems to have been part of something bigger that was destroyed. A relic.’ Because of the intuitive manner in which they come about, Jerry says that these heads can equally well be considered self-portraits. ‘Unconscious self-portraits then, as a kind of mood of the day.’