Robert Zandvliet

Beyond the Horizon, paintings 1994-2005

10 Sept 2005 - 8 Jan 2006
work in collection

At a young age Robert Zandvliet (Terband 1970) already began to earn praise for his paintings. In 1996 he made use of a guest studio at De Pont, and the museum acquired his work for the collection. In recent years he has had success with presentations abroad. The large retrospective shown in Bonn this past summer, which included paintings from public and private collections throughout Europe and the United States, is now being shown at De Pont. With this exhibition Zandvliet emerges, in a convincing manner, as a painter who has developed his very own 'handwriting' and visual language.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication including articles by Volker Adolphs and Max Wechsler, as well as an interview by Hans den Hartog Jager.

During the mid nineties, Zandvliet gained a reputation with his paintings of everyday objects - a television, a camera, a chocolate bar, a hairpin - which he rendered in broadly painted areas of color and outlines. The thin tempera paint (a mixture of egg yolk, water, linseed oil and pigment) gives the images a clear and transparent character. While travelling in Italy, Zandvliet became fascinated by the ancient fresco technique, in which the paint had to be applied quickly and without corrections. That same confidence can be found in Zandvliet's execution of line. His early works involve monumental forms and intense color. With limited means, a great sense of space is evoked. The 'film screens' and windows are particularly grand and panoramic. Zandvliet paints on the borderline, so to speak, between abstraction and figuration. The forms are recognizable and yet seem to be no more than a pretext to arrive at his own visual language.

Toward the end of the nineties, the images become somewhat looser, the movement of painting more dynamic. The exhibition Brushwood at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2001) mainly included work related to landscape. Zandvliet uses the theme of landscape as a metaphor for painterly space, which he manages to conjure forth with broad bands of color and dashing movements of the brush. Among the artists who serve as examples for him are the seventeenth-century figures Hercules Segers, with his imaginary landscapes and Philips Koninck, with his majestically painted vistas. Their experimental way of working inspired him to develop his own visual language. With this Zandvliet controls the image and makes well-considered use of visual means.
Zandvliet is interested in the light and color of landscape. In the acclaimed documentary Hollands Licht, he tells about the striking difference between the 'dry' light in Italy and the 'creamy' light in the Netherlands. Here colors are more rich, as it were, and lend more volume to the forms. He refers to the cloud-filled skies of painters such as Van Goyen and Weissenbruch - not at all like those of Piero della Francesca, for instance.

After the landscapes with long horizons and low perspective, Zandvliet painted a series of highways seen from above, rendered as meandering loops and colorful bands of paint. The images are 'flatter'and consist of an active pattern of brushstrokes. In many areas the paint is transparent, which allows one to see the layers of color. The eye can follow the movement of the brush drawn across the canvas in bands.

This development continues in the most recent work, where the movements seem to be more abrupt and vehement. These are landscapes in which the horizon has vanished. Following the lighter landscapes of the Brushwood exhibition and the painted highways, Zandvliet started on a series of nocturnal paintings. A number of large works display a verticality, in which the paint cascades downward in a whirling movement. For this Zandvliet used the reflection of light on the surface of water as his point of departure. The flashing of light in the darkness has been rendered in short, twisting brushstrokes. Also in a recent series of works on paper, the paint has taken shape in a turbulence of smears, spatters and runs. His studies of light reflections bring to mind an earlier series of monotypes, The Varick Series, which he produced during a work period in New York; those landscapes show contorted trees, tree stumps and bushes. But the real subjects of the recent series are the space and the light that emerge in the beautiful black-and-white prints.

By continually redefining its potential - in terms of form and image, expression and composition, surface and space - Zandvliet ultimately deals with painting itself and with the endless search for possibilities beyond the horizon, beyond the known.

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Kunstmuseum Bonn.