In celebration of the eightieth birthday of Dutch artist Jan Beutener (1932), the Kunsthal Rotterdam exhibits over forty of his paintings in a retrospective of his intriguing oeuvre. His work is not simply realistic, but lies on the boundary between abstraction and realism. Beutener paints clearly recognisable images which, although taken from the real world, surpass the realms of reality with arrangements that create almost abstract forms. He ‘composes' within the plane of his paintings by including unusual fragments, unexpected perspectives or enlarged detail, with that which is absent from the paintings playing just as important a role as that which is visibly present. The understated character and strong composition of Beutener's paintings leaves an indelible impression on the viewer.
Composing with Shape
Jan Beutener's artworks, which date from 1969 to the present day, depict images that we all recognise such as his famous work ‘potatoes', a monumental composition portraying a decidedly ordinary subject. Beutener plays masterfully with formal divisions of plane, framing reality as he does with other common objects such as a cup, a knife, the back of a chair and a pair of gloves, all of which he portrays in flat, almost abstract arrangements. It is these objects that fuel the frozen compositions with melancholy and longing. His restrained style and meticulous layering of paint slowly but surely create the desired mood in which colour and shape are united. The effects of light and shadow on the materials contribute significantly to the mysterious atmosphere in his paintings. The precise arrangement, attention to colour and light, and the presence of everyday motifs are somewhat reminiscent of 17th century still life paintings. Beutener's intention, however, is far more about illustrating ideas than reflecting reality.