Theo Kuijpers

recent paintings

18 January - 16 March 2014

In 2009 Theo Kuijpers (Helmond 1939) made a trip to Australia for the third time. The exhibition of his recent paintings in the project space is the visual result of his stay there. Memories are an important point of departure for him. During the nearly fifty years that span his career, he has often taken inspiration from the impressions that he had on trips to countries such as Morocco, France, Italy and Australia. Initially he derived his motifs predominantly from architecture. In the recent paintings, landscape plays a prominent role as well. Rainforest, Bush Landscape in Morning Light, Trees and Tracks are among the titles.

In his paintings Kuijpers explores the area between figuration and abstraction. The sensation of orange-red plains of sand or the density of the Australian outback is sublimated in powerful colors, terse form and, in terms of painting, uncommon materials. While his brushwork can be called impasto, the foundation on which he paints also gives these works a remarkably 'tangible' quality. Kuijpers uses the canvas not as a neutral support, but as an unmanageable underlying surface that prompts and directs his painting. Before he begins painting, he builds up the surface with tent cloth and other bits of fabric, leaving in the stitching and similarly thickened areas. While painting he responds to those irregularities, which also remain visible in the finished works. The branches and forklike twigs that Kuijpers has attached to his recent works emphasize the material character of the art work to an even greater degree. In Bush Landscape in Morning Light the painted twigs heighten the suggestion of dense undergrowth. When seen from a close proximity, that tight structure dissolves into patterns of colorful brushstrokes that evoke associations with the art of the Aboriginals.

Kuijpers's fascination with the culture of the Aboriginals comes across in his paintings in numerous ways: in the lively rhythmic quality of his brushstrokes, in his choice of color, but also in his use of expressive signs. Sometimes the twigs wrapped in linen, such as the twelve twigs curved into an arch in Twelve Men in a Boat, have assumed the function of symbols. To the Aboriginals the spanned arch form is the sign designating 'to sit'. This explains, in combination with the oval boat form at the lower center, the mysterious title. Circles are a recurrent motif as well. These can refer to the boundaries of a natural habitat, to the magic of a sacred place or to a corral for cattle. In Das kommt davon wenn man auf Reisen geht (That's what happens when you travel) they represent the mysterious circles in the Namib Desert which, as recently discovered, are caused by termites. Actually the laconic title applies to all of the works in this exhibition. Travelling to Australia gave his painting a boost, says Kuijpers. His paintings beam at us. Kuijpers will soon be turning seventy-five, and his style is still brimming with vitality.