Archive for the 'Personal' Category

June 6th

Jun 06, 2009 in About My Art, Personal

Today is June 6th, which, besides D-Day, is the birthday of my late sister, whose portrait is included in the previous post. This is just something I wanted to mention, because this post is not about art, it’s entirely personal, something I permit myself, because this is a blog.

This website started as a hobby. Between 1998 and 2004 I used the Internet to chat and as an excuse to learn webdesign and programming. Then, in 2004 I got into “domaining”, which is a game of registering domains before other people do. Worldwide enormous sums of money are wasted by ordinary people caught in this kind of “Klondike” phenomenon, which refers to economic activity in which more money is made on the people that pursue it, than by these people. (Klondike is a town that has become representative of “gold fever” and the fact that owners of restaurants that fed the gold diggers where the ones that got rich, not the gold diggers).

Nevertheless, domains still fascinate me, because it’s a word game, but I don’t own many. Because I registered in 2004, I felt obliged to develop a website around it. Now it’s leading a life of it’s own and (rightly or not) I’m no longer feeling the pressure of becoming a successful artist (however you define that). To the point that I’ve resumed an old hobby of mine: making music. Now, at last, I feel prefectly comfortable with being a perfect amateur at it. I dabble away with some equipment I bought and reading music theory. I make music like Karel Appel made paintings: passionately and mindlessly, although now I’m trying to get some sense into my musical endevours (and Appel became a famous artist, not to mention).

On the art front: at the moment my style is pure abstract art, so no portraits or social realisms, just big blobs of paint. I do this whenever I get the feeling my art loses energy and I start to be able to predict myself. What’s happening, then, is that the formal side of my painting has gotten worn out, which is why I get into pure abstract art, in order to develop new formalisms, which I then apply to a style that’s partially figurative.

Every time that happens I think I need to move away from School of Paris styled expressionism and get into color field painting, which it’s emphasis on purity. This does result in more clarity of color and concept……which I then exploit to make an expressionistic mess….like a post-Parisionist should.

I can’t discern the exact nature of this process yet, but it results in a gradual change of style.


Jun 01, 2009 in New Paintings, Personal



What’s a “Margreet”? It’s a name in Dutch, a language closely related to Klingon, if that’s rings a bell. A former Dutch NATO Secretary General once got into political trouble because he was caught saying that the Dutch language resembles the uttering of animal sounds. The Anglo-Saxon reaction to Dutch is often that it sounds like people spitting. At any rate, Margreet is the name of my late sister, who died of cancer in 1990, at the age of 29 years old.
I know I promised to write biographies of my mother and sister, but when push came to shove I decided that such writings would be a little too personal at this time. Instead I will add their portraits to this site, Margreet’s portrait is at
Actually Margreet never wanted to be called Margreet, because she didn’t like the sound of it, she wanted to be called “Janna”, her second name.
I realize that some of you will feel compelled to refer to this posting as touching, which I find endearing, but nevertheless the portrait of Margreet is meant to be a tribute to her. Now I’m at it, I’m trying to describe Margreet, but again I come to the conclusion that I don’t want to. I’m not like Edvard Munch, who never got over the death of his sister, I’m just your average introvert.. Bear with me, I’m Dutch.. For which I have to apologize, because this site is oriented towards English speaking folks. But if you want me to tell something about myself (as artists are expected to do), then things will inevitably get cheesy, because of the couleur locale I find myself in.

Circus, better worlds and color fields

Apr 22, 2009 in About My Art, New Paintings, Personal

Some folks say that my art reminds them of a circus, which doesn’t sound like a compliment and isn’t taken a such (neither as an insult). Let me explain how the circus comes in. At I describe how in the 19th century the circus in general (and the circus clown in particular) was generally seen as representing the artist and his position within society. Picasso in particular took that comparison to heart and during his blue and rose periods incorporated  many circus scenes into his art. From there on the circus seizes to be an explicit subject in his work, but the circus spirit and atmosphere continues to be present in his work.

The thing with artists is that they are impressionable bastards, they absorb their experiences. And so, without realizing it, I incorporated the circus atmosphere into my work just by Picasso’s influence. Maybe the influence has many other sources, but it seems to me that Picasso has been one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Picasso wasn’t even the most talented painter of his time, but while his contemporaries confined themselves to their niche, Picasso took a very broad approach to art, and culture in general. Similarly, it has been said that one of Mick Jagger’s main merits was/is that he understood what made his generation tick – not just the music.

So I have no special relationship with the circus and I’m not the reincarnation of Picasso, nor do I have any kind of metaphysical, New Age-styled bond with Picasso’s spirit, I’m just the product (among many other things) of his influence. Like Picasso’s generation kept referring back to Classical art, while radically breaking with it, I keep referring to the 19th century, both in my taste of art and music, with Modern Art serving as a bridge between then and now.

Now we know the similarities, it becomes more interesting to determine the difference between my art and Picasso’s. I don’t want to go through all of it, but while looking at Joan Miró’s work I realized that Miró, as a very old painter, was able to successfully incorporate the abstract expressionistic style of the 1950s into his work. I woud say that Picasso made similar attempts, but not successfully. Maybe he was too tied to his figurative upbringing and that abstract expressionism required the line of thought of pure abstract art, which Picasso could never connect to. Or maybe he just lost his flexibility at some point and remained tied to the 19th century, his later paintings still have that flavour.

Since 2006 I’ve been trying to connect to post-WWII abstract art, which I think can be best seen in

The White Rectangle, abstract art by Marten Jansen

The White Rectangle

The thing with 1950s abstract art is that it’s messy, so 1960s abstract artists went for purity, order and serenity (see for more on this), which they achieved, but at the expense of structural complexity to the point of triviality. So in the White Rectangle I went for purity while trying to retain complexity.

Now I feel again drawn to the 1960s side of the equation: the purity and serenity of color field painting, as it’s called. Actually color field painting is Piet Mondrian revisited. It has the same utopic, higher dimensional (almost symbolist) feel. The difference is that Mondrian’s works are all involved compositions, while color field paintings are all (yes – all – I’m so sorry) starting points rather than complete artworks. Nevertheless, the basic idea of color field painting is very valid and an inspiration.

So far I find it difficult to go down the path of color field panting, because my basic instinct is to want to express the way my soul sees the world: as a yucky place. Weird as that may be, I’m not an escapist. I don’t shun the influence of the world but see it as something that must be lived. In fact, if there’s something that gives me the creeps it’s utopism and it’s propensity for higher and better worlds. Dutch and French artists are both avid utopists for different reasons. The Dutch are plainly naive and think their higher worlds and visions can be made into reality, while the French are aware that the world is up to no good but regard it as a matter of savoir vivre to try to invoke higher dimensions and idealized worlds.

I think Vincent van Gogh was an odd combination of the two. Many people regard him as a naive fool for saying things like “This world is the best of all possible worlds” but it seems to me that he would say that to aggrevate people and there was always something very realistic in his work and his written observations of the world. On the other hand, true to the Dutch tradition of taking the hypes of the time overly seriously and then thinking they invented the concept, he tried to bring fine art to potato picking day laborers and tried to establish an artists colony which was attended by Paul Gauguin only, because he could use Theo’s allowance.

Everyone has his own brand of naivity, so do I, but as an artist I feel drawn to Edvard Munch who tried to confront and use his demons rather than to try to escape to a more heavenly place. When he had cured from his neurosis, he realized his art had lost its essence, so he went to a slaughter house in order to witness the killing of a bull and be shocked back to genius. Of course it didn’t work and while he remained one of the best expressionists of his time, his work had lost its content.

I neither have nor need a neurosis (at least, not one that bothers me) in order to be an artist, but I will ascend to heaven no sooner than I kick the bucket and before that I will want to create an art that spills the guts of Planet Earth for all to see, by which I mean that I want to feel I’m in touch with (my perception of) reality at all times. At the same time I’m an aesthetic, because there’s never just ugliness, there’s beauty too. At a loved-one’s funeral the sun may shine and the setting may be beautiful, adding to your grief to which the universe is indifferent. But tomorrow is another day, as there’s no dignity to survival, just genetics, and if I may, a little bit of humor.

I’m coming out

Mar 03, 2009 in Abstract Art, Figurative Art, New Paintings, Personal

Portrait of Female Alien, painting by Marten Jansen
The Messiah, abstract painting by Marten Jansen

This site being my repository of bells, whistles and outlandish inventions, I have added a portrait of a female alien. I have also added an update to my Messiah painting.

End of 1990s I got involved in a UFO bulletin board, due to friendships with some of its participants. The arrogance of the “skeptics” got on my nerves to the point that I started to defend the “extraterrestrial hypothesis”. The other side (whatever that is), dubbed the “believers”, tend to be avid conspiracy theorists and some of them have impressive knowledge of the US government, for civilian outsiders, that is. Some of that, beside the friendships, is what I got out of it, but I still I take kindly to the alien as a cult icon.
At this moment an anti-Islamic Dutch politician is on his visit to the US Congress and in my country of residence being called a “multiculturalist” (usually abbreviated semi-funnily as “multicultie”) is not intended as a compliment, so maybe the time is right for me to defy……and come out of the closet…….
While the politically correct have stubbornly denied my right to think straight for decades, let me offer them this appeaser: I’m a xenophile.
Now get the ***k out of my way…I have work to do.

Merry Christmas

Dec 15, 2008 in Personal

Marten Jansen wishes Merry Christmas

Ho Ho Ho
Image by Ashley.

Jansen biographies

Sep 13, 2008 in Personal

It seems to me that some people aren’t happy with my autobiography, after all, “at the end of the day it’s all about the person”. So I wonder if they want to hang me on the wall or my paintings (my critics don’t need to answer that). I refuse to give myself a critique, as an artist, let alone as a person, so I’m afraid I can’t elaborate on my autobio at this point.

What I can do is give concise biographies of my family. Some may wonder what this has got to do with my artistry. The answer is:not all that much. On the other hand, it’s customary to include in any biography, short biographies of the person in question’s family, as I did in the case of Picasso, Modigliani and Mondrian.

Henk Jansen

I will start with my father Hendrik Jacobus Pieter Jansen (Henk Jansen), born Aug 8th 1916, Ermelo, The Netherlands, died May 11 1989, Bussum, The Netherlands.

My father’s father came from Zeeland, a province in the South-West of Holland, where he married Sophia (I have yet to gather more data on her).
I’m not clear on my father’s parents’ background. On the one hand my father said that his father descended from a family of land owners, and as a middle-aged man he went to Ermelo in Central-Holland, to retire. On the other hand, both of his parents worked as nurses in a home for the mentally disabled, where they met. My father never mentioned that to me, so he might have regarded it as an embarressment.

My grandparents had one son and three daughters. My grandfather was remembered by his children as a kind, gregarious man, who liked shooting and wood carving. My father’s mother was a beautiful, strong, but manipulative woman, who was both loved and feared by her children. My father was twelve years old when my grandfather died from a heart attack. My grandmother was left in the seemingly impossible position of having to raise four children on her own, with no social security to fall back on, but she was able to successfully manage her drugstore and photo shop, which allowed her to retire in her mid-50s. From sixteen years old on, my father managed the photo shop. He was a very good runner and at 18 he was set to go Olympic, until complications following surgery cut his sportive career short.

When he had finished school, he wanted to become a chemist and specialize in fiber science. He decided not to go to university, not wanting to stay dependent of his manipulative mother. Instead, he had a short education as a chemical analyst. He went to work for Shell Oil, which was conducting chemical research in order to improve the quality of gasoline.

In 1940 Holland was occupied by Nazi Germany and my father was sent to Berlin in Germany for “Arbeitseinsatz” (forced labour). During the war my father worked as an analyst in a laboratory headed by a professor of chemistry, all in the name of Arbeitseinsatz. What made life in Berlin particularly stressful were the almost daily air raids, with everyone moving into shelters in the middle of the night. There was food shortage, so my father, who stood 1.79 m (5.87 ft) tall weighed just 45 kg (99 lbs) at the end of the war. Doing some work for the resistance, my father would take photographs of collapsed buildings in Berlin, for bomb damage assessment, which he would then pass on to the Swedish embassy. One time he was caught by a German soldier, who let him go in exchange for the camera. At some point during or after the war he found himself seeking shelter in a trench, with 17 Czechoslovakian soldiers, when a bomb dropped right into the trench. The Czechs were dead, but my father was sitting just around the corner, much to the benefit of yours truly’s existence.

When the Russians entered Berlin, my father witnessed mutilation and rape and Berlin was set on fire. When Nazi Germany was finally defeated, my father was asked by his contacts from the resistance to go to Russia to retrieve some objects, called spinnerets (?) that seemed to be vital to Holland’s fiber industry. They were taken by the Germans from Holland and then by the Russians from Germany. So he took the train to Russia, standing up for 24 hours. Having arrived in Russia, my father was able to enter the factory that had the spinnerets, at his leisure, take the box and walk out without anyone realizing what was going on.

Back in Holland he was drafted for military service in Indonesia, which resisted Dutch colonial rule. My father refused, because he thought he had gone through enough suffering during the war, so he went into hiding. Before long, the Dutch government agreed and he was dismissed.

He went to work for a chemical company which would later be taken over by chemical multinational Akzo Nobel, for which he continued to work until his retirement.

Just after the war my father worked during the day and followed a course in the evenings, which earned him a degree comparable (in level) to a university degree in chemistry. True to his love of femmes fatales, my father married an Amsterdam show girl, but soon realized this was a mistake and he had no children with her.

My father met my mother in a café in Amsterdam. My mother was working as a secretary to the board of directors of a chocolate factory. My father would wait for her in front of her office building after work hours, but because of the social stigma of being with a married man, she tried to avoid him. She went to England and France to improve her language skills, but also to avoid my father. When she returned and my father was again waiting for her, my mother gave in and she went to live with him in a house in a suburb of Amsterdam (where she still lives).

My father was a brilliant chemical engineer (the best in Europe, according to his colleagues), in his time one of the leading specialists in polymerization. He also had an affinity with the visual arts, as do many family members on my father’s side. Whenever my father had a chance, he would visit museums, during international business trips, or take our family to local exhibitions. He was a fan of Pablo Picasso, Karel Appel and the architect Le Corbusier. My father’s fondness of modernity was partly due to his youth in Ermelo, which in the first half of the 20th century was a rural village of a fanatically religious nature. Everyone was dressed in black (like the postmodern art scene…) and entertainment was not done. No dancing, no card games, or as my father put it: “Everything that was fun, was disallowed”. Even today the fanaticism (religious or not) is palpable. Next to my father’s grave in Ermelo there lays buried a 24 year old man on whose tombstone is written: “Sown in delight, conceived in dishonour”, meaning that the man had been an illigitimate child. The fin de siècle (with it’s loss of religious belief) had not quite reached Ermelo, but nevertheless the winds of change enabled my father to become a freethinker. In that sense he was Monty Python-esque: A very formal and intellectual man with a quirky twist. He would embarrass my sister and me with his overly formal behaviour (during the 1970s), his lack of physical coordination and his social ineptness, but we also respected him for his humour, wisdom, vast experience and solid personality. As a teenager my sister mingled with the local bohemians, who, among other things, were drug users, but due to my father’s warnings she never touched drugs herself and her friends were shocked at her sensible lifestyle, which was due to the respect she had for my father’s points of view. My father was a somewhat timid, soft spoken man, who always avoided verbal confrontations, but his opinion carried weight with people, even with my sister, who was a difficult teenager.

Avoiding verbal confrontations, by no means my father avoided physical confrontations. People would misjudge this low-key , “professorish” man at their peril. Watching soccer games was his passion and sometimes he would come home somewhat bruised, but content at the blows he had been able to deal. He was never heavy handed with his family.

In the business world he was able to hold his own, due to his uncomplicated nature, his physical and mental strength and his technical expertise, but due to his modesty, lack of social skills and unpolitical approach, the highest echelon was never within his reach. Even though at one time he was paid a better salary than the head of his branch, he prided himself on never having asked for a pay rise. His strategy of dealing with conflict was to stoically take the harassment of his opponents, which can be very effective and as means of intimidation, but not always as a sign of leadership. Having grown up among women, he had a way with them, but couldn’t get along well with men, which was no help professionally either.

He intended to get into a partnership with a German businessman to start a chemical company, until at 55 he got a severe heart attack, thwarting his ambitions. He stayed at home for 2 years, then went back to work, part time, for Akzo Nobel. Retirement at 65 was hard for this man, for whom work was the basis of his self-esteem. He died at 72, during heart surgery.

Although not artistic, my father was a uniquely creative man, a quality which still inspires me. He was a post-Fin de Siècle man, with the same intellectual dynamism, curiosity and grandeur of the artists and scientists I admire. I didn’t get on with my father. For all the ability he had, my father was too insecure about his self-worth to be able to befriend men. Although later in life he tried hard to improve the relationship, his initial rejection and his childlike social skills would continue to dominate our relationship. My parents were opposites in most ways. My father stoical, intellectual and low key, my mother sensitive, nervous and at times verbally aggressive. This diverse gene pool contributed to a highly charged family, especially during my sister’s and my adolescence, with deep and strong family ties and equally intense contradictions and conflicts. It’s not uncommon that parents and their children diverge during the children’s puberty and then converge when the children grow up, but because my father was old to have children and died rather young, my father and I didn’t get the chance to converge and become befriended adults, without all the real or assumed obligations and tensions of a parent-child relationship. Today, as ever, I honour and love Henk Jansen.

Biographies of my mother and sister will follow.