Within his practice Witvliet attempts to find what lies beyond that of what he can speak or can define. It is through his practice that he is hoping to stumble across a different way to make a connection with reality, to go beyond the immediacy of the first encounter and explore the realm that opens up when focusing more intently and repeatedly on a contemporary encounter. For Jeroen, memory drives many of the images that he creates. Shifting moments, historical uncertainty and a desire to understand human relations creates doubt and questions the ability to remember and connect fully to time and history. The day to day flow of observation, reaction and reflection, linking multiple pasts into the contemporary leads him to stubbornly embrace that which could be called the Poetic.
Witvliet undermines the first acceptance of the image as a container of observation, association and possible truth. "It might be a faint attempt to question realities follies and our relationship to the visual on my part, but this questioning is a necessity for me. I will be damned if I trust my own senses to be informing me of a factual understanding of the world". The painted surfaces shift constantly as if they were slowly fainting memories being replaced by different interpretations and a new way to mediate the visible world. Many times the surface is darkened and reduced to an almost monochromatic surface where everything and nothing takes place. Witvliet uses a wide range of images and sketches as a starting point for paintings and drawings. Many of these images come from memory. When he thinks about a particular event it might become connected to other places and times. The images are therefore manipulated further; information is being added, removed or obscured. At times Witvliet only draws and paints from memory having the image quality become obscured as if a filter has been applied. The surface of the painting can vary in quality from smooth to scraped and textural.
"The passing of time obscures and manipulates the memory of an event and our understanding of reality. Experiencing the now is linked to that most peculiar way time is being felt differently at certain occasions and is experienced many a time differently between individuals depending on circumstance. Time and reality are in my view linked in-explicitly. Whatever it is I try to represent becomes the more interesting to me when it escapes definition and becomes in it self not just referential but infused with a sense of defiance, the poetic, the unexplainable".
Marcus Nunsberg 2015
As a way of investigating space and an in attempt to understand my position and reaction to place, history, relationship of any form, art and current situations I paint.
Recently I have focused on debris piles and their ambiguous origins.
The piles are recognized to be accumulations of a history that might still be visible or might be obscured. The situation that led to the formation of the pile has become an enigma. If anything the piles have become an abstraction. In their form and shapes landscapes can be discovered. The remnants of events and situations have become the basis for a new landscape. Faint echoes of shelters, ribs, pallets, trees and roots all create a sense of the presence of a raft. A raft lost at sea, a raft that attempts to provide shelter. The raft of the Medusa by Gericault has served as a starting point on occasion.
I used to use a wide range of images of piles as a starting point for the paintings and drawings. The images are being manipulated; information is being added or removed. Barricades erected in the streets become indistinguishable from piles of construction site materials left after the building of houses. Humans are removed from the scenes to further strengthen the removal from direct reference. All drawings and paintings are now done from memory. Many have a form of shelter built into them.
I have been intrigued by the way piles, statues and memorial sites are a result and expression of a time bound, subjective interpretation of history.
Temporary events are constantly related to and measured against previous situations, history and art history. Events, especially current, seem the last hooray of an incubation period. Images of barricades thrown up in the street seem to talk about the tensions that grew under the surface, accumulating in a reaction. Shelters that are erected throughout cities speak of another form of incubation and reaction.
While working on ideas in a studio, my creative process is responsive to the world and is equally subjected to and informed by an incubation period.
When painting and drawing greenhouses I am creating sheltered situations. These are structures that protect and nourish seedlings. When I roam through a city I find many places of temporary shelter, created out of many different materials. These don’t shelter growth but mainly the outcasts. The density of the piles is being contrasted with the glass surfaces of the greenhouses. My approach is one of lyricism, using the structures as symbols. In them I create situations that are sometimes poetic, sometimes unbelievable. In this series I am giving myself the freedom to manipulate whatever grows inside the sheltered situation and hijack the structures that are left as debris piles. I do what I feel is necessary to make a drawing or painting that functions on many different levels.
It has become unclear if a pile references defeat, victory or apathy or if a greenhouse holds the promise for a future.
Jeroen Witvliet 2011