Archive for April, 2009

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.

Geek roll

Apr 20, 2009 in Geek

A new painting was added at It’s bigger than usual and somehow it looks bigger too, although it’s image dimensions are the same. Speaking of which, the web is becoming ever more complicated. My web statistics reveal that this site’s visitors use 81 different screen resolutions, from very small screens to very big, which means I have to produce a different page for each screen size. I used to do this manually for 3 different sizes, but I’m working on a script that will automate this for a larger and variable number of screen sizes.

In the mobile sphere it’s even more complicated, because of the thousands (or more?) different models, many of which have different screen sizes, memory limits, etc. Nokia has developed software that can detect the device’s brand and model,  connect to a database and retrieve the model’s properties (such as screen size), which enables you to serve different site formats depending on the mobile device.

Speaking of mobile (I’m on a geek roll, here), I recently created the site, which is visible on a computer, but which is primarily intended for mobile devices. Dot-Tel domains serve to store people’s personal information, but can also serve as directories, to which people or sites that want to be found under a certain keyphrase (such as abstract art) can submit their contact details and so all Dot-Tel  sites together will serve as the Internet’s Yellow Pages.

There comes a time that you will realize that all Dot-Tel sites look the same. This is why:

When you enter a URL (say in your browser’s address bar and hit return, then your computer will contact your ISP and say:  “Give me, fast!”.

“Take it easy will ya, I have to contact the Dot-Name registry”, your ISP replies. It has a list of the URLs of all registries (organizations that manage domain names) and so your ISP says to Dot-Name: “Give me Paintings”.

Dot-Name is not a great conversation maker and replies with: “”, which is my site’s “IP number”. Your ISP uses that number to navigate the web in order to find the computer that has my website. When found, my webhost will send’s homepage to your ISP, which will pass it on to you.

Dot-Tel is all different because it won’t send an IP number to your ISP, it will send a website! That’s right, the Dot-Tel registry serves as a webhost too, in the sense that it enables you to enter data into it’s database, which it inserts into it’s web template (the lay-out and graphics you see at It doesn’t look like much, but Dot-Tel sites are utility websites, intended to be handy.

Message from the stars

Apr 12, 2009 in How Not To Paint

On April 02 2009 8:36:00, Galactic Time, I received the following message from operative Elganan:


Dear Marten,

The ballotage commission has looked at your submission.

In the attachment and letter.

Kind regards,

Elganan Jelsma



****** Hilversum





Marten Jansen

Lothariuslaan 82


Date : 2 april 2009

Concerns: ballotage Gooise Art Circle

Dear Marten,

On behalf of the board of the Gooise Art Circle I regret to have to inform you that the decision regarding your membership has been negative.

The rejection is based on one or more of the following grounds:

X The information sent shows insufficient professionality and/or professional education.

O The information sent shows no active cultural enterprise.

X The ballotage commission thinks the information sent is promising, but the quality does not yet fit the criteria at this moment.

O In your sector we are not allowing new memberships at the moment.

We wish you good luck on the development of your professional practice.

We advise you to contact us again in a year and join us at one of our Art cafes, society meetings or art happenings.


Elganan Jelsma, Barbara Houwers and Herman van Doorn

The board of the Gooise Art Circle.


Couple of things, here:

X  Because I’m not a doctor I didn’t know I had a professional practice.

O  I thought ballotage was something for Freemasons or English field hockey clubs.

These people have a very different perception of art than I do.  🙂