Jan Vanriet


09.05.2021 - 26.06.2021

‘Heldenleven’ (‘The Life of a Hero’) is the title of a book of gouaches and poems, an autobiographical work, the chronicle of youth, in the words of its creator. The poems and gouaches were created simultaneously in the summer of 2019. The gouaches are not illustrations of the poems, just as the poems are not the explanation of the gouaches, they are interpretations of the same thing. The painter, the poet looks back in time with some melancholy. He remembers the images, but also the tastes and the smells, the sensations that you sometimes subconsciously take in but that make a lasting impression. As a man of today, he moves to the time of his youth (and later) and recalls the experience of that time through the filter of his own life. This creates new images, not images from the past, but images of today that refer to a past. That past of the maker is not the past of the viewer; sometimes there are convergences if the viewer is from the same generation or has (had) a similar interest or if the image evokes associations with the viewer's own experiences or experiences.

There are influences that have strongly determined the work of this artist. For example, the war, which he has been confronted with since childhood, not directly but through the stories and fate of his parents. They met each other in a concentration camp, which is something you can't just brush aside. The commitment that his parents have always shown is also a fixed value for him.
But many fine experiences also play a role: deeply felt sensations, childlike dreams, all-encompassing love, an adventurous trip or an experience of beauty. On the other hand, there is the loss of loved ones, the absence of friends, the failure of society, threats and violence.

Pain, sorrow, happiness, safety, love and friendship: Jan Vanriet's gouaches show me all of this through their total simplicity. There are no tricks, no overwhelming formats, no ingenious techniques, it is just paint on paper, nothing more, but what a world they evoke in me. Each gouache can function on its own, you don't really need the poem with it, each little painting is an independent work. So is the poem, together they form a diptych. Good diptychs are known to be enjoyed on their own, but together they are more than the sum of their parts. This is also how it works with this artist. Look at the work, let it penetrate you, take your time, associate and then read. It may be that you experience something completely different from what the poet intended, it can only be enriching. More importantly, allow yourself to be moved and sympathise with the artist. Feel the strong hand on your shoulder, feel safe and explore the world again.

Daan Rau
Ghent, April 2021
Selection works