Spotlight On: Jan Willem van Welzenis Wants You To Feel Without Thinking

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Jan Willem van Welzenis on the surface of things is as Dutch as it gets, tall and lanky with floppy auburn hair and the beard to match. His sensibilities, on the other hand, are very hard to define simply by his geography or heritage. Van Welzenis is part of new breed of abstractionists in Europe who have eschewed concept for a more sensory appeal in their work. His major influences include, naturally, Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Cy Twombly, Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

van Welzenis was born in Oudewater, a mysterious Dutch town with seemingly no origin and a history of witchcraft. There’s a canal that runs through the town and feeds tributaries all the way into the lush countryside dotted black and white with cows. He’s bounced around Holland for a few years but has upped easel in Dordrecht. “A year ago,” he begins, “something I read made me think. De Kooning, at that time he was thirty years old, quit his job in order to become a real painter. Touched by the similarities in our lives, his story stoked my fire and I left my job as a bookseller. Apparently, the time was right to become a painter.”

As a child, van Welzenis loved to draw, but in retrospect, he is unsure about the actual quality of his drawings. But he does recall winning a prize for drawing a chandelier once. In his formative years he always only understood art in the context of classical art, the word reminded him of his uncle, a Biedermeier painter, and biblical scenes. He elaborates “Though I do like painters from the old times (in fact I adore the Dutch masters), for me it was a little bit of a bore to draw a portrait, a still life and a landscape. Then there was a time I wanted to become a commercial artist or a graphic designer. I didn’t intend to really be a painter.”

In his creative process he s not unlike other painters, he enjoys a room with natural light, some music and solitude. The room in question, here, is the kitchen for its skylight that lets light in on even the gloomiest of Dutch winter days. He describes it as an incubation period, adding “When I start painting it comes down to a crucial moment. I work fast and directly without trying to make up what and how to draw, but only work intuitively. Colors aren’t mixed but used directly from their tube. I love working wet-on-wet, I keep adding layers. There’s a surprise in it for me too. It’s action painting like a cowboy with a six-shooter that goes “bang-bang” So there you go.

Colour plays a massive role in Van Welzenis’ work, in fact, some would argue that there isn’t much complexity regarding his composition. Previously he would use a lot of ballpoint pens and charcoals and has only recently embraced his flair for colour combinations, “Nowadays I am enjoying it more than ever and I realize I use every color.”

He is also experimental in his choice of canvas and works on anything from linen to newspaper. Yes, newspaper. His wife once brought back a paper from England that struck him as being slightly more yellow, so he simply had to paint on it. Some of his works display a cursive font, though the meanings of these words are not always known. He has been known to use lyrics that are in a book from Pompeii, graffiti on walls, or phrases scratched into the bark of trees or benches.

Jan likes Nick Cave, raw herring and wanted to be Knightrider as a child. You can find his work here.