What the eyes of artist Bart Kok catch on his daily strolls is directly reflected in his bright and whimsical paintings. These paintings flirt with pointillism, expressionism, and art brut, but foremost explore the digital translation of the landscape through colors and contrasts that closely relate to pop art and graffiti culture. Simultaneous with his recent move from the vibrant city of Antwerp in Belgium to a deserted little rural Dutch town called Lochem, the landscape shifted from backdrop to main subject in his works.
Previously, the city of Antwerp and its art (historical) scene, museums and people inspired Kok to focus on general existing romantic ideas about “the artist” and formed an exploration into artist clichés such as: the tragic, the heroic, the lonely soul, the drunk and the philosopher. The absence of such a scene in his new environment forced to the artist to solely concentrate on what his eyes were left with: primarily nature. A seemingly simple and obvious subject, evidently deeply rooted in art history, forced the artist to focus more on the act of painting itself, and be freer and more open to what the Dutch landscape had to offer.
“What struck me about the Dutch landscape is that it’s in a way very restricted. Because of our dense population and lack of mountains, we don’t have large vistas. We are always limited in our experiences of nature. We don’t usually feel overwhelmed or small, like we would be when experiencing a wide-open view on top of a mountain.
The only way to imagine yourself in nature is in the forest. Because of the density of the trees, your field of vision is limited. And because of this, you can experience a sense of mysticality. You never know what could lie behind the next corner, or what could be lurking behind a tree. For me, this stimulates my imagination, and that is something I also find within the paintings I create.”
Kok photographs these mystical encounters during his walks and collects them into an archive that functions as a guideline during the painting process. By using high contrasts and oversaturated colors and evenly dividing them on the canvas, the artist wants to create the illusion of light coming through the back of the canvas, mimicking the way a computer screen works.
Ornis Althuis is co-owner of Althuis Hofland Fine Arts with Jeanine Hofland, located within the historical center of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. With a strong focus on the medium of painting within the realms of intuitive and autobiographical narrative, Althuis Hofland works with artists from different backgrounds that span different generations.
SENS Gallery is pleased to announce “An Acorn Fell On My Head”, a solo presentation of Dutch painter Bart Kok’s work in his debut exhibition in Hong Kong. The exhibition features transcendental landscapes emerging from within the artist’s illusive mind.
“An Acorn Fell On My Head” introduces the sublime forests standing tall in Bart Kok’s imaginary world. Whimsical landscapes come to life from the deep roots of art history, a symbiosis of the naturalistic yet abstract interpretations of Gustav Klimt’s landscapes, the bold tones of Fauvism and the shades of blue prominent in the nighttime works of van Gogh. Kok envisions a forest wonderland, pairing cooler shades against warmer tones to create the quirks of life. Kok’s fascinations with the mysteries and contemplations of life and death elude underneath the transience of nature.
Bart Kok strolls around his surroundings and wanders the canvas to find interest in the little details. Kok captures the small nuances which accentuate the complexity of the forest in the moment, from glimmers of light peeking out from tree branches to the colour transformations between the forest and outer fields. Limitations in the Dutch and Flemish geography he is familiar with provides him the opportunity to utilise his imagination to create mystical forests. Photography acts as a guideline to portraying the wondrous and the fantastical - though inspired by real life landscapes, he distances from reality to create an enigmatic image of nature. His brush techniques cite from rich stylistic repertoires of art history, in tandem with the elements of contemporary digital visual culture, like the oversaturating tones of light mimicking the brightness of colours on a computer screen.
Influenced by his new surroundings, Kok enforces the role of the forest as a vessel most able to showcase his painterly style. In addition, Kok’s bold brushstrokes emphasizing the different surfaces take inspiration from Georges Seurat’s pointillist techniques and the unique patterns in Klimt’s landscapes. As a Dutch painter, it is difficult for him to ignore the influence of van Gogh on his landscapes through the shades of blue across the canvas, using tones that are seen in the nighttime landscape paintings the latter artist is renowned for.
Deep shades of blue prominent on the canvas emanates the transience and calmness of the forest and offers a glimpse into Kok’s fascinations of the mystery of death in a dreamlike world. He attempts to capture the epiphanies beholding the landscape, alongside the ethereality he portrays through the trees. Life and death come against each other, where glowing colours of the surface juxtapose the gloomy colours of the trees and the sky. The forest serves as a metaphor for both life and death – the trees offer a sense of protection and security to the artist and the viewer, yet Kok deliberately conceals what dangers may be lurking deep in the forest’s grandeur.