My fascination has always been the psychological make up of myself and others and how we relate to each other. How much of our opinions are formed by others, programmed by society and when do we question this and start to analyse who we are as individuals. How do we relate to the past, fit into history, where do we find ourselves in the present? Growing up in a culture of historical and biblical painting, like Rembrandt, Rubens, the Italian masters, I saw a visual representation of my questions. Street scenes, the Night watch, Rubens’ battle paintings, Goya’s commentary on war. James Ensor’s exploration of his psyche. (photos below)
As I was reading philosophy and learning about life, I was inspired by Socrates, Kierkegaard, Thoreau, Machiavelli and Albert Camus, among others. Philosophies in which individuality and personal development and questioning the world around me are one of the first principles. Humanism. Absurdism. Practical.
My inspiration lies in observing the lives of people, their relationships and their actions. Walking on the street I see the beauty of movement and subtle facial expressions of daily activities. That’s what I love. How we are alone with our thoughts and questions. But share this moment in time with the others around us, who equally wonder in their own way about existence.
Society and interactions are created by all of us as individuals. As a group we make up society and different societies create world interaction. The stories grow from how we compare and relate to each other, that there’s not one way but many different ways how we can live, whether we interact or not. It depends on where we come from and what our point of reference is, but also how much we allow the story of another perspective broaden our concept of life. Existence is so fascinating. To appreciate where we come from and who we are and the diversity of different points of view. The joy of life and the hardships are experienced by people all over the world, the interaction of family, the journey to work, drinking coffee in the morning. Enjoying food and laughter. We are so strong, yet so fragile. The questions we ask ourselves might be similar, but our answers are very different, we each have to find out individually what life means to us, what place we want to take in society, which friendships to develop, which to abandon. When I look at the people on the street some stand out to me and these I photograph, sometimes I discover that a person in the background of my photograph, someone I didn’t notice at first, turns out to embody perfectly what I’m looking for, these are inspiring moments. To be surprised by the unexpected.
Born and raised in Rotterdam, I graduated from the sculpture department at the Rietveld Academy at Amsterdam in 2000. I ran into technical difficulties while making video installations and had just bought a camera. Wanting to know more about the rules of filming, a cameraman suggested I’d come and help out in the camera department on a film set. This has left me working as a first camera assistant and steadicam operator in film for many years. ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463657/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr26 ). But when my desire to make art became stronger, I started looking for a way to develop my creativity. Not in film and not in sculpture, but in painting.
As a long time practitioner of martial arts I’m drawn to Asian art and philosophy, the balance and simplicity of the ink drawings, the use of brush work, dry, wet, precise and crude. The colouring. The concentration. It’s nice to see Asian ink drawings next to Rembrandts washes, Goya’s etches, Rubens’ unfinished studies. They represent for me an elementary part of life which through all the social media and external interaction, sometimes, seems lost. (photos below)
Mack is an artist whose figurative paintings are based on a contemporary narrative inspired by old styles and techniques. On her large scale canvases with thinly applied oil paint on cotton and a calm balanced colour scheme, almost like pastel, she drives the narrative of her work due to her careful homage to the old masters with a modern social perspective. Think visually of the biblical and mythological narratives by the Italian masters, simplicity of form and colour of Japanese masters, social commentary by Goya and the solitary feelings created by Edward Hopper all seem to come together.
In her work she searches for the soul of modern man, his relation to the people around him and his moment to moment battle with space and perception, vision and placement, survival and in some cases death. She draws you into her imaginative view of modern absurdity. While at first glance she takes you on a trip into a simplistic landscape, a second look shows a use of image and background and a philosophical depth that allows the observer to create his own less than comfortable view of the world he inhabits.
The fact that she chooses to work into detail some of the elements in the painting while leaving other parts unfinished creates a visual depth that makes it possible to interpret her work at different levels.
DHMack first solo exhibition at the NDSM fuse is definitely worth paying a visit. Her use of fences instead of white walls and the circular set up of this exhibition feels like a panorama set up to see the artist’s 360° vision of the world around us.
DH Mack is a painter in the true sense of the word. At first sight, her paintings are depictions of casual social relations in which people are sitting on a bench or waiting in line. As you allow yourself time to observe the characters you start to associate different parts of the painting in order to find the meaning of these relationships.
The form of the characters seems to tell you something about them. The boy in the centre of the painting that is only coarsely outlined may be detached from the other characters that are finely detailed. A shape that seemed to be part of the background suddenly pops up into the foreground and becomes a character that dominates the scene and you start to find symbols that are shared between characters.
Suddenly you realise that your leaning posture resembles that of the people standing in line and the way you cross your arms must be related to the way the old man folds his hands and looks at you. As you become part of the story, the painting begs the question how you attribute meaning to anything.
It is the hallmark of a good artist that she intentionally changes your perception of reality. After you have seen DH Mack’s paintings, you’ll see meaning in social situations in a new way.
J. van der spek
Photos of art that inspires me. None of the photos are mine, possibly with copyright, I took them off internet: