Jan De Vliegher: "For me, the most important part of painting is a natural aspect. Something that is due to chance, as if the painting had painted itself at some point, at random. As a painter, I often paint the painting "between the lines", following strict ideas. But I know that it is outside the lines that the "interesting real life" begins.
In the Plush paintings, I pushed the painting process a little further by allowing more elements of surprise. Every day after painting, I clean my brushes in large buckets of water. This time, I did something else. I pressed the paint of my brushes on brand new white canvases, in large spots of colour, as random as possible. The next morning, I came to the studio to find some totally simple 'abstract' paintings. The idea was to preserve the accidental life of these "underpaintings". Plush toys are perfect for maintaining speed. They are bold and colourful and I can play with the open spaces between them, interacting with the background.
I have been a big fan of Trecento's Italian paintings for a long time. These are wooden paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries with golden backgrounds, saints and figures, all painted in vibrant colours. The panels are painted with tempera paint, a predecessor of our modern 'non-yellowing' water-based acrylic paints, hence the surprising freshness of these Trecento paintings. Their symbolic meaning has been forgotten by most, but the pure beauty of the colours remains. The most colourful of the Trecento's artists is undoubtedly Lorenzo Monaco, a painter who is not afraid to juxtapose complementary colours to stimulate the game. These plush toys carry the same joy as Lorenzo Monaco's paintings, but the toys also add a touch of childish happiness without complications. Very refreshing.
Another important new feature in this Plush series is the use of neon or fluorescent colours. I wanted to do something with neon colours for a while, but I never really found the opportunity to use them. I started the new series a little slowly, looking for the right atmosphere. The first painting in the new Plush series was painted in 'classic' colours, without using neon colours. The second painting was also painted in classic 'non-neon' colours. This time, it was obvious that something was missing. It would have been better with more punch, more energy. I destroyed that painting and repainted it. I started using neon colours only from the third painting. Everything was immediately set up and I continued to use neon colours. It is very tricky to use these neon colours. You easily get this feeling of 'pleasure overload' but I have found the right balance between too much and too little.
I was surprised to see how natural these neon colours were in my new paintings, without any artificial sensations. In painting, we use a range of tones from white to black, a range that has not changed much over the centuries. This means that if you wanted to paint light, you had to carefully build your colour range from dark to light colours, with zinc or titanium white being the whitest white and the last colour to be used. If you add a little fluorescent colour to the white, you can now extend the brightness of the white. The white seems to shine, which allows us to simulate reflective light more accurately. In addition, with the introduction of fluorescent pigments, we can significantly increase the colorimetric space of the visual painting spectrum in a way that no medium can reproduce today. To really feel the impact of fluorescent colours, we must see the paintings with our own eyes. No photographic image or display technology can convey this feeling."