Dutch fine artist Jos van de Ven was born in the south of The Netherlands, not far from the village of Vincent van Gogh. His artistic journey has taken many twists and turns. In his younger days, he was a devotee of the French impressionists. Until he met Salvador Dali at his home in Spain. Jos was only 23 at the time. For several years he was influenced by the ‘artistic freedom’ of surrealism, until he felt the need to break loose, to find his own way. So he painted in a totally abstract way, wild, uncontrolled, very colourful. Still not happy with his work, Jos studied art in Spain. When he picked up his paint brushes again, he did not know what to paint. He had changed and was looking for something that would allow him to express what he wanted to say with his art. He became interested in the techniques of the Dutch and Flemish Old Masters and turned to Dutch painter Cornelis LeMair for guidance. Under his tutelage Jos experimented with a variety of traditional materials and approaches. His work took on another form. He liked the traditional techniques, but wanted to give his paintings a more contemporary look.
Now Jos van de Ven is a modern artist with a classically inspired style who considers painting to be an adventure and a search for deeper communication. Currently he likes to express a peaceful state of mind using objects (and people) in a timeless setting. “Objects which have ‘lived a life’, which have been owned, used and survived, often have become more beautiful”, he says. At the heart of his work is the play and poetry of light and colour. His work may be still or motionless, but it’s alive. You will find that many of the objects in his paintings have a flaw. They are not perfect. Perfection is not interesting (to paint); it’s the end of the game. In a recent painting Jos painted three peppers: a red pepper, a yellow one and a blue pepper. The title of the work: ‘Nobody is perfect’.
Painting in the style and techniques of the Old Masters
From the Flemish and Dutch Masters Jos van de Ven inherited the precise gestures, the expressive quality of matters, the chromatic harmonies and the utilisation of the natural light. His works are a play of light, shadows, and space. The particular refinement which they reflect captivates the attentive observer, whatever the theme. Behind, or beyond, the simplicity and balance of his paintings are forged the bonds between the reality of the object, seized in its silent essence and the immateriality of the spirit inspiring life.
Updating classical techniques
Much as he enjoys painting classical still life, he strives to give it a contemporary touch. For instance, in the 17th century, the interiors were dark because of the wood panelling on the walls and because of the small windows. that’s often reflected in the still life paintings of the time, particularly in the dark brown colour schemes and the sparse lighting. But Jos wants his still life paintings to be fresh, full of light, with vivid colours. He wants them to be alive, to show that simple thing in life have a right to exist too. A piece of fruit on a plate in the late afternoon sun can be very beautiful, very simple. Essentially Jos just wants to make something that’s beautiful to loook at. For that he uses many of the best classical techniques but with a modern-day spin. “If you don’t control the technique, you can’t express what you are aiming for. It’s like placing someone in front of a piano for the first time and saying ‘go ahead, play anything you like’. It doesn’t work.”
Subject matter – learning from Kalf
One historical painter he greatly admires is Willem Kalf, who was a complete master of truly exquisite still life. Not much is known of him, but his few remaining works are more than superior. Many painters of his time were commissioned to produce still life paintings for the Dutch bourgeoiserie, who wanted to show the riches they possessed. The techniques of still life, the accurate rendering of materials, come from that period;the artists learned to paint glass, ivory, silver, tin, copper, etc. It wasn’t easy and it became quite an artistic end in itself. Willem Kalf achieved it with great gusto and flourish, but his greatest pleasure was obviously in painting the ‘ordinary’, an approach which Jos likes to use.
Light – learning from Rembrandt and Vermeer
From Rembrandt and Vermeer Jos learned a great deal about light and lighting. Rembrandt was a master in technical virtuosity; he communicated exactly what he meant and had the full mastery of his technique to do so. Jos has great admiration for Rembrandt’s deep understanding of painting, but also of paint, the material itself. In his studio on the north side of his house in Amsterdam, Rembrandt lit his subjects with the natural light of one large window. It had about 10 different small shutters, and depending on the amouint and source of light required, he would open some shutters and keep others closed. Vermeer also used mainly natural light; lik him, Jos’daily custom is to use only one window on the north side of his house, which provides a wonderfully consistent, cool light.
Colour – learning from Vermeer and Titian
When it comes to colour, the painters who have inspired him most are Vermeer and Titian. “It was an adventure to dicover the use of jewel-like transparent glazes, to build up a sense of atmosphere, an intensity of colour, a luminosity and a feeling of ‘something more than just things’ in his paintings.”
What is a good painting?
Well, that’s not easy to answer. Many people believe that one should feel moved, touched, when seeing the painting, that it should be tasteful, and that it should be ‘a job well done’- meaning that its technical rendition is good, or more than good. But perhaps a good painting might also reveal a message or concept.
“Technique for the sake of technique and for showing off a kind of virtuosity may produce some element of ‘wow’, but to my mind it has no real value. A painting has to be an illusion with a soul, not an exact replica of reality. Photography can do that much better. That’s why I love the art of painting. The artist can create something, using reality as a tool, if he wishes, that a photographer may never be able to do. He can make his own light, mix colours that may not really exist, or generate forms that would be difficult to find in the real world. A painting is the product of an artist’s fantasy and imagination, giving him the opportunity to create and show his own universe. Just as a painting or photograph without a good composition has no power, so a painting without light is like a dead image. One of the goals of the artist must surely be making his painting come alive, and for me that aliveness is created with light. But it’s quite a challenge to create light with just a little bit of paint…” says Jos van de Ven.
“The richness of life lies within sincerity, elegance and a bit of mystery: I like my paintings to reflect states of being and my quest towards a better comprehension of man and his nobility. Hopefully my paintings open up a window for those who like to look beyond appearances“, says Jos.
Jos van de Ven shows at galleries and art shows throughout Europe and the USA. His work is included in numerous collections in many countries and he regularly recieves requests to give master classes in the traditional Dutch techniques. Recently he has been invited to show his work in China.
Some recent awards and recognitions of his work:
2014 – Gold Medal Award by the Society of French Artists in the Grand Palais, Paris (amoungst 540 international artists)
2013 – Silver medal by the Societé des Artistes Français at the Grand Palais in Paris (amongst another 500 or so other artists)
2010 – A recent exhibition with 38 of his works in the Museum of St. Maxime, France
2009 – Gold medal at the International Festival of Arts and Literature, France
2008 – Award for ‘Best Classical Work’ at the Grand Palais in Paris (amongst another 600 or so other candidates)
2007 – Bronze medal by the Societé des Artistes Français at the Grand Palais in Paris (amongst another 500 or so other artists)
2006- Bronze medal at the Grand Salon d’Art Rambouillet, France