"I'd love to talk with Rembrandt..." 5 Questions for Arjen

Dutch painter Arjen transforms human bodies into bizarre formations, combining different elements of the human figure with geometric forms that result in new entities. By creating the illusion of body parts that aren’t actually there, or others that can be interpreted as two different ones, he works at the intersection of the simple and the absurd.

Arjen began copying Old Master paintings at an early age and studied Rembrandt's and Jacob van Ruysdael's techniques. The works of modern artists like Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali intrigued him, as well as George Condo or artifacts from ethnographic collections. From these different influences, Arjen developed his initial concept of intertwining deformation and simplification. He reduces forms to the point that sometimes body parts are only suggested, while multi-interpretable body parts could cause shifts in the viewer’s mind. In contrast to these confusing effects, he adds clarity in composition and colour.

Arjen makes countless sketches that are simple and expressive at the same time, exploring the basics of drawing and the possibilities of the line. In the few of them he is able to turn into oil paintings, the believability of the images is increased through plastic and voluminous forms.


Some of Arjen’s works have an underlying message, reflecting on the lack of freedom, acceptance towards other people, or consumerism—always in a subtle way that makes viewers think and smile at the same time.

 

How would you sum up your art in three words?

In general, I think a lot of my paintings are minimalistic, absurd, and funny. In the end, everybody has different associations with them, and I think that contributes to the richness of enjoying art.

Which old master would you like to spend a day with?

There are so many I would love to meet. Picasso would, of course, be very interesting, but I don’t think he strictly qualifies as an "old" master. I’d love to talk with Rembrandt about his progressive ideas and views on painting. Just to hear him talk about his ideas on the use of light, facial expressions, and composition. And above all, to see him paint!

Do your works comment on society?

Some certainly do. There’s a lot going on in the world. We are hopefully seeing the end of the first pandemic in a hundred years. We are faced with a climate crisis, the impact of which can hardly be overrated, and war in Europe suddenly isn’t something from the past anymore. Some works comment on the infinite consumption of the west, like THE BLINDED CONSUMER which I painted recently. The painting for the 24 HOUR EDITION DROP is called AN EYE TO THE FUTURE. It suggests to me that there are a lot of big challenges ahead for mankind, but that it’s also an intense time because there are so many ways things can turn. Above all, there’s always hope and a lot of positivity.

What music do you put on when painting?

Well, it depends. Mostly, I listen to podcasts about art and news and science programs. As a professional violinist, I love to listen to chamber music or symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Brahms, or Beethoven, but I also like to listen to pop music as well!

What was the most surprising reaction of a viewer to one of your works?

People react very differently. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they are very surprised, and sometimes a person is quiet for some time to think. I find it most interesting to see the very different emotions that different works evoke.

 

Arjen will drop AN EYE TO THE FUTURE in an open edition, exclusively available on misa.art for 24 hours. Click HERE to learn more about the 24 HOUR EDITION DROP:  17 March 2022, at 6 pm CET.

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