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John van der Valk

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John van der Valk

Elusive familiarity
John van der Valk sees his layered works of clearly depicted but seemingly unapproachable women, as a synthesis of the various phases he has traversed.

Intuition plays a considerable role in the materialisation of his works.
The artist seldom sees how his painting will ultimately end and can often only declare his artistic choices in retrospect. This artist’s paintings are not necessarily what they appear to be, both in regard to content as well as physical manifestation. This certainly holds true in the technical sense: the women on his canvases appear to have been photographed, but have actually been created entirely from layers of paint.
Content –wise Van der Valk leaves scope for the viewer’s own perception, which makes a viewing of his mysterious paintings such an exceptional experience.

John van der Valk, born (1954) and raised in Utrecht, views himself as an autodidact artist.
Van der Valk was already fascinated by symbolism and mysticism during his education; elements which today still permeate his work. But before the artist started painting the monumental paintings in which women appear to be captured in the canvas, he navigated an impressive route in regard to subject matter. Over the years, clearly defined phases can be distinguished in his body of work.

His works from the various periods differ considerably, but there is undoubtedly an internal logic in his development.
Van der Valk drew volcanoes, battle fields and turbulent seas as a child. During the years he studied, it became bunkers and other kinds of fortification; robust settlements which symbolised the defence of something vulnerable.
The bunkers then made way for red and white markings. There was still demarcation, but that which required protection, now became visible. Van der Valk mainly tried to depict vacuity during the following phase.
A few vestiges of enclosuressurvived: destruction and obliteration now dominated.

During the subsequent period the canvases became continually darker and the artist experimented with blackboard paint.
His infinite scratching in this material was the symbol for exposure; protection and demarcation were finally subservient.

Barriers remain a theme in John van der Valk’s work. As serene as the women now appear to be in his current work,they are veiled in a kind of haze and massive surfaces are in front of them and behind them.
In spite of their transparency and clarity these Madonna-like figures remain unapproachable.
His fascination with mysticism is not, incidentally, of a religious nature.
The female figures on his canvases should be seen as metaphors for purity, security and tenderness. The archetypal woman holds something divine and universal for Van der Valk.
He believes in personal experience: it’s the personal rituals inparticular that interest him.
Although his work is saturated in mysticism, it is clear from the way he works that Van der Valk is an artist of our time.

The computer plays a key role in his work process: he has built up an enormous image archive in his computer.
Van der Valk creates an image on his computer using a precise process and digital manipulation, which he uses as a basis for his paintings.
The artist creates the fundamental shapes on the canvas with a pencil, by means of projection, and then subsequently discards the original image. The Madonna’s are translated in paint with an almost photographic precision, but no photo is actually used for the definitive work of art.

The artist wants to – by painting it – add an extra dimension to the image. A painting has a paint-skin which forms its own unique surface.
In addition, painting encompasses the physical act of adding layer upon layer of matter: which is a personal ritual in itself for Van der Valk.
In hindsight, Van der Valk sees these phases as a quest to fi nd himself; a path upon which barriers needed to be broken down.
To him, the trick in life is learning to know when to open up and then to seclude himself when necessary.
It is exactly this vulnerable balance that is tangible in each and everyone of his paintings.
For Van der Valk, the significance of visual art lies in the creation of an image that summons up a feeling of familiarity to the viewer.
The trick is to touch on something visually that is difficult to put into words.
Purity, beauty, vulnerability and stratification are essential themes in
John van der Valk’s work.

The comprehensive meaning of his paintings just cannot be put into words, which means that the artist has attained his objective.