Last Monday i visited Melle de Boer (1972) in his studio in Billytown. I had seen pictures of his latest paintings on facebook and i was eager to see the real thing.
It took some time but at last we met and we spent the afternoon talking about art and – of course – about painting.
De Boer took up painting again last autumn. You may know him, apart from his great work as a songwriter and singer, as a wonderful draughtsman.
In his drawings his lines are self confident on one hand but on the other hand always in search of the unexpected.
They are cartoonlike. The figures, signs and sometimes the words always find their own way in the white space of the paper following their own logic, and they often have a somewhat surrealist sense of humour.
Why he has taken up painting again, he told me, was, as i interpret it, more or less a matter of soul searching.
The way he uses the figurative in his drawings, using humour as part of his way of expression, could also be interpreted as a way of hiding from what keeps him really artistically busy in his mind. Also, painting is technically more of a challenge and it offers you more of a struggle, both technically, artistically and mentally.
He decided to paint non-figurative representations, so as to be busy with the material, the composition and its expression, free of any interpretation of recognisable shapes or situations, free from references to the real world, not to be distracted
We agreed painting is difficult. As soon as you start painting there is a heavy weight of traditions on your back and shoulders which you have to bare, ignoring it, condemning it, admiring it. But the main point is: there is the paint itself.
Apart from the colours it can be glossy or matte, it can be transparent or opaque, it can be thick or thin, it can be exciting or just bland, it can surprise you or it can be terribly unsurprising.
Finding a balance is a matter of a lot of trying and not being afraid. One’s biggest mistake may turn into one’s most brilliant idea and the other way round.
Brilliant ideas are to be mistrusted when painting anyway. We also agreed that there is no way of being totally abstract or non-referential.
After all, even a simple geometric shape like a square has a meaning in one way or another. We looked at some works he has been busy on. We talked about the monumentality of smaller and bigger paintings.
One greyish painting has, in red, the name of Georg Trakl, the great pre-WWI Austrian poet of whose work De Boer is a great admirer.
Simply describing it, it is a grey painting with some blackish lobes and of course that name written in red, but when you walk around it, you see the different structures of the paint, the ideas proposed, rejected and becoming part of the painting. Any painting artist may recognise these aspects and they keep on fascinating both maker and viewer.
The main problem in painting (as it is in art in general) remains how to surprise oneself without imposing one’s will on the painting or one’s own mind.
De Boer is too much of an artist not to have himself surprised. His hand, like in his drawings, does not shy away and is always in search of the unexpected.
The paintings show a world full of tension, a clash of positive and negative, toughness and sillyness. Personally i can’t wait to see his paintings shining in a show. It would be a new chapter in De Boer’s work (as it already is).
And there is of course also Henk & Melle’s new cd We Are All Rockstars, a title that says it all. Thanks Melle, it was an inspiring afternoon!
© Villa Next Door 2019
Content of all photographs courtesy to Melle de Boer.
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