The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
In this gouache the Dutch artist Bram van Velde makes full use of the possibilities of that technique. In some cases the gouache paint was applied in bright colours to cover the canvas. In other places he used thin layers of paint transparently one on top of the other, sometimes so thin that the paint started to drip. The painting is completely abstract, consisting of fields and lines. Sometimes the lines connect one field to another and sometimes they stop when they reach another colour or dissolve in it, while sometimes they return to the start. The main movement remains within the framework of the painting.
Van Velde’s work can be related to Abstract Expressionism, which was an important new movement in the arts in Europe and America after the Second World War. However, Van Velde was not concerned with the act of painting or with paint as a material, nor was his aim to evoke a particular emotion or mood. He tried to reflect life in its totality in his paintings. He said: ”I do not exercise the art of painting, I try to show the phenomena of our times.”
Van Velde’s view of life was not optimistic. In the late 1940s and 1950s, many artists responded directly or indirectly to the horrors of the Second World War, but for Bram van Velde the war was “only one example of the way in which we are caught in a damned machine from which there is no escape.” He became friends with the writer Samuel Beckett who considered Van Velde a soulmate. Both saw life as a destiny on which the individual had no effect; will and belief did not lead to anything. Beckett admired Van Velde’s work because he thought that it was essentially different from all other art created up to then. He said: “I consider him to be the first to recognize that being an artist means: failing as no one else dares to fail.” Van Velde made no attempt to adopt a position in his paintings. They are searches into the unknown.
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