Joost, tell us a little bit about you and from the area you are coming from?
I love traces. To trace the imprints in the sand, to trace the imprints in time...
I was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands and I grew up in a small village in its vicinity. This of course doesn't mean that much; it's just a place. It doesn't tell you anything about who I am. Yes, it will probably mean that I speak Dutch as my native tongue. Maybe I may have an accent, or a specific sound from the region where I grew up, this is all normal and the same for everybody. However, is there an essential “Dutchness” to my work? Peter Frank does argue for this in his : “THE LATE-NETHERLANDISH ABSTRACTION OF JOOST DE JONGE” (read more about it).
To my opinion this is mostly found in the overall sense of the miniaturist and the genre painter. I, on the other hand, feel my genes might be even more important. My maternal grandfather's surname is Verduin. In the 17th century there was one Verduin a still life painter. My father's father was a practicing Sufi. He knew healers and people that were clairvoyants; he himself healed people as well with his hands. My maternal grandfather used to say to me that beauty was all around and that I just had to look for it and could collect items of beauty, but also memories. On the other hand, the line of my grandfather's mother (Sterk) was made up of gentry and scholars, who consecutively held positions and or studied at the University of Utrecht for over a period of about 400 years. Some of my father's ancestors can be traced to the ancient nobility of the coastal province of Zeeland, ‘Schouwen’ is one such name and Island. But also for example the family of Van Deurne, who had moved to Rotterdam, leaving their grand castle in Brabant.
The influence of your ancestral heritage is hard to define. I personally feel that it is a kind of road map to your conduct (your disposition). Like the Diepenhorst (my maternal grandmother's maiden name) family had a specific way of standing, a specific posture and specific gestures. Families tend to harbor words and sayings through the centuries, expressing a sense of togetherness, of belonging. My handwriting looks exactly like that of one of my Sterk ancestors on a document from the early 15th century. So, this interests me. There must be some motoric heritage, a physical sense of learning, of understanding that is carried through the ages. I like this notion of interiority. A kind of closeness beyond time, so close is the ancestors’, so close... This is all that matters to me. Within my drawing, I want to be close. Close to what I’m saying, close to the meaning of a line, close to the tenderness of a brushstroke, close to what drawing and painting really are onto them. Close to you when you see the work; the seeing and perceiving, the comprehension takes place within you; could we be any closer...?
You had an interesting project with writers. Tell us a little bit about how it all started?
As a youngster, I used to visit exhibitions of prints with my grandfather and printers as well. So when I was very young it was usual for me to visit artists' studios. Sometimes he ordered graphics with a poem to it. He had many illustrated bibliophile books in his collection. One such a book was “L’après-midi d’un faune”by Stéphane Mallarmé with etchings by Albin Brunovsky. So I always, had a strong sense of the poetic with an image and the poetic within an image. I have always felt that the poetic as something ephemeral, a feeling or the true and deeper meaning of life in an aesthetic manner is the most important. For my work to be understood and for me to understand art, me in art, and me, I had to reach out to the poets to clarify my position. To give birth to the poet-painter, I had to meet poets that dreamed of being painters, who painted dreams of poetry. I have many a good and strong friendships emerging from this connection. This is something like artist seeks artist to enjoy being an artist within the realm of the poetic, but just a little different from what you are used to.
The process of collaboration has many paths? How do you influence the spirit of collaboration with other artists?
I like to influence it as little as possible. However I love to be influenced. Changed a bit. I feel my influence is very subtle. I always want a collaborator to own one work by me before he or she starts writing his or her contribution to the project. Maybe I could influence them almost unseen. This, like the light of the stars, which we do not think of that much, may influence us in our dreams. This light, though not consciously perceived, may give us the sense of spirituality we crave. When we make this apparent, a matter of some urgency in our life, only then will it really surface. You must think here of Steiner, who wrote beautifully about the origin of colours.
What do you think of painting and it’s future in the art history?
This is a very difficult question to answer. I feel that without painting, truly, we have no art history. So for the future, if there is painting, the art historians will have to consider its position in modern day art practice/discourse. Anyway, this position may well be a minor one. We will not know how far the hype of modern day's robotic fashion will deter us from that, which is most innate to human expression. The feelings of humans are not easily translated to a computer code. One-day maybe, people will see that each system is the shadow of that which it describes. That our body and our conscience are more direct than any technological invention will ever be. I think it is still most important what it means to me. In a way it is all just about painting, about drawing about its processes without any bigger meaning then my enjoyment as an artist. However, I will make a strong case to put painting and poetry forward within a larger structure of social meaning. To show the strength of a simple material, telling a story about people's urges and dreams, which I feel are the same for most of us. So as long as there are artists like me, the future of art history will be one with painting in it.
What can CAMPvisitors see from you?
They can see sketches, drawings, poetry and painting by me.
I feel, the all-important thing I want to show is my artistic process. How I am looking for a composition, a position of the formal units of the structure. How I search through forms for a structure, for a narrative of feeling and meaning. So, drawings, sketches and a completed work that will show you a possible outcome and make you feel that there is always an (other) (invisible) masterpiece that may materialize any time from the process.
What do you hope for your stay in Basel?
I hope many people will come and look at the art. Maybe the colours of my painting will touch them and stay with them like the way in which a soft note of the piano fades away slowly in space, in time. That maybe my work will stay with them like a memory, a colourful and strange sound comforting them in this all too material age.
Where can we see more about you in the future?
My work will be shown in a solo show in November in Geneva at the Centre culturel du Manoir de Cologny.
At Empty Mirror you may expect to find new work by me:
Further announcements at:
Peter Frank’s “THE LATE-NETHERLANDISH ABSTRACTION OF JOOST DE JONGE”
Icarus Variation, 65 x 50 cm, acrylics and oils on paper, 2016.