Life-like paintings on canvas
Storytellers With Painter Roos Van Der Vliet
by Erin Rowe on 20 June 2016
published on www.balladof.co.uk
When I first stumbled across Roos van der Vliet and one of her life-like paintings, I think I stared at it for over an hour. As it sat, fusing itself into my computer screen, I kept zooming in a little and then zooming out, stepping back every now and again to get a different perspective. My first thoughts were those of contemplation, was it a painting or a photograph? As my mind raced around those possibilities I was stunned and mesmerized by the intense eyes staring back at me. The connection was deeper than any eye contact I had experienced in my life and this was coming from a piece of art on my computer screen.
These eyes were only one pair in what I later learned was a series of Storytellers. The women Roos uses as models are purposefully chosen as “women I can identify with, to decrease the feeling of anonymity and alienation.” By choosing women she can identify with, she inadvertently manages to entangle the viewer in their relationship, which can be surprising and powerful. When I delved further into the artist and what she strives to achieve, I started to understand why I was feeling the way that I was: “…the important thing for me is that I feel that there is a connection between us, not needing to be explained easily. In my work, I search for a way to bring their inner world to the surface.” Roos has an innate ability to draw this inner world out of the model and create an intimate space on her canvas for the viewer to find some kinship or empathy in what the model is expressing.
What I found most interesting was how Roos used hair as a form of expression as well as censorship. The way it wraps around the face and neck can seem quite claustrophobic, almost like you’re being molested by an extension of yourself, but she embraces this discomfort. “The models I ask to pose for my paintings get draped in hair, which isn't always very comfortable. It can be hard to breath, hard to move. The only thing that's always visible is their eyes, which look at me intently. The intimacy it yields by covering them like this and letting them stare directly at me interests me very much. That intensity is what I'm trying to share through my paintings.”
A bit of mystery
The intensity is palpable in each and every one of their faces. Many of them appear frightened at first, but the longer you look in their eyes the more the story seems to unfold. Having a bit of mystery is something Roos has always taken pleasure in. She says, “I've always liked portraits that aren't the easiest to interpret. Portraits that don't share their story immediately but make an impression on the viewer all the same. Staring eyes with an undecipherable look fascinate me. I do, however, always try to find the middle ground between melancholia and a certain degree of peacefulness and resignation in their eyes.”
Her decision to create the series was “loosely based on a portrait from 2012 in which the hair was tangled around my neck.” This self-portrait “haunted me for a long time and it only seemed natural to paint a follow up.” She’s very careful to create works that “appear timeless” so she only focuses on “the most essential parts, the parts that are necessary to tell the story; the eyes, the hair, some skin.” She chooses not to “show their clothing style” but will sometimes “paint a piercing or show their hair colour, but that's all.” This allows her to "take away a part of their identity but I also give them an identity in return. By letting them speak from their very essence, by focusing solely on their eyes. I hope these elements contribute to a more intense story so the audience can't just walk past them, just like I can't. What their story is can't be described in words, but it can be felt."
See the beautiful works in person
I definitely can't walk away and am entranced by each storyteller I come across. I hope you are too. If you'd like to experience these beauties in person: Roos will be holding a solo show at KochxBos in Amsterdam from September 24 - October 22, 2016.