Toon Verhoef

Voorburg NL 1946, lives and works in Edam

Toon Verhoef’s images resist definition; a description of what they depict remains on the tip of one’s tongue. The origins of the motifs and the objective for which he has employed them remain undisclosed. A painting, says Verhoef, comes about through an intricate play of forces – different and sometimes conflicting impulses – and should be regarded as such, without emphasis on any single aspect.

Each painting is based on a drawing, which the artist has selected from dozens of scrawls and sketches. That is the drawing which, in his view, hits the nail on the head, due to a certain detail, because of some incongruity that intrigues him or for whatever reason. Drawing and painting have a great deal in common but are not of the same order. The drawing hand is more active, less emphasizing. Forms and lines that have an unforced appearance on paper seem, in a painting, to be more ‘manufactured’, as Verhoef puts it; the image begins to ‘stand’, and the movement is decelerated. That which the artist finds interesting in a particular drawing must be regenerated, as it were, on the canvas via all sorts of secret routes.

In trying to attain this, he works in a fairly precise manner, starting with the form. The color scheme is also determined at an early stage. What follows is a lengthy process of ‘fine tuning’ which brings the image into focus. It is this process of introducing adjustments and nuances which – to put it a bit pompously – gives the painting a genetic history: the essence of the painting does not lie, after all, with the subject matter or the motif but with the manner in which it is painted.

Verhoef’s painting is both programmatic and makeshift, well-considered but not demonstrative. The works have not been painted in an impromptu manner but with the aid of a broad range of techniques. Since the late seventies Verhoef has been known as a ‘fundamental’ painter (whatever this may be), and that has led to a one-sided view of his work. Recent series of works show the true wealth and diversity of Verhoef’s approach and the complex ways through which the images are created. All sorts of ‘infections’ constantly crop up in the image, disrupting predisposed expectations and linear developments in the work.

Verhoef works with the awareness that every painting inevitably shares some connection with other works produced by him and that his oeuvre as a whole relates, in turn, to the painterly tradition and its current relevance (which he recognizes in the work of such differing artists as Velázquez, De Chirico and Mangold). His concern is not to break with this tradition, but to clearly realize the potential and the limitations of painting’s intrinsic values. By doing so, he is building an exceptional oeuvre of extremely sensitive, sometimes astonishingly beautiful paintings, in which the visual has rid itself of the nameable.