Bettie van Haaster

Vogelenzang NL 1957, lives and works in Amsterdam

The work of Bettie van Haaster has a highly spatial character, this being almost in defiance of its intimate scale - dimensions of 35 x 25 centimeters are normal for her. The subdued colors create an atmosphere of space and clear light. The small surface is always thick with paint, in which a multitude of brushstrokes can be seen. The interplay of these marks creates a kind of landscape, as though a rather vast area is being seen from above, from a considerable height. The traces of the brush demarcate or cover areas, define paths or roads that branch out or return to their points of origin. But what first seems to be a road can, at a different moment, loom forth as the shadow of an elongated elevation in the land. And so positive shapes turn into negative ones; areas are seen as emptiness one minute, then as mass the next.

She paints standing up, while the canvas lies in front of her on a table, which also functions as a palette. The stance is reminiscent of that of writing; there is little distance between painter and canvas. Her preference for the small format has to do with the fact that she is able, in this way, to work as rapidly and directly as in a drawing. She paints wet into wet, seeking a particular result but also responding to coincidence, until the right coherence has come about in the paint.

Van Haaster draws profusely and intensively. Sometimes it signifies a break from painting, a moment of relaxation, to be occupied with the same thing in a different way for a while. Sometimes painting simply comes to a halt, because a motif has been exhausted. At such a time, the start of an idea or a motif that became bogged down can be drawn persistently and endlessly while the artist seeks a solution. In other drawings, one can recognize fragments from existing paintings. These are small studies, often of a mere detail in the painting: a transition from foreground to background, or a gradual change that makes one element turn into another.