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The first thing one notices when viewing the oeuvre of Marja Jansen is the pronounced development of her work in the course of time. This artist, born and raised in The Hague, dares to experiment!
Marja Jansen

A painting as an ornament

Several years ago she produced smoothly painted designs with clearly defined colour fields, as if they were drawn with a brush. Neatly coloured figures which had a whimsical character because of the playful colours used. Exceedingly well-organized and calm.

In her later work, Jansen became much wilder. The bright colours remained but her treatment of the paint took on a new dimension. The paintings of 2000 take you by surprise. They are robust, overpowering canvases with thick layers of paint. You are carried away by the full compositions of whirling, swirling forms while at the same time being confronted with vivid colours. Her work today is considerably more refined. Inks of various colours flow together across white paper. A brush is not used; everything is formed by the movement of the paper which causes the ink to flow. She elaborates on this theme on larger canvases. The ink moves – driven by gravity –over the surface and then she forms shapes with her hands and introduces lines. In comparison with her earlier work, Jansen now has a more minimalistic approach: she has returned to the essence of a composition. Subtle abstract paintings are the result. The calm has returned.

Extraordinary is the fact that she also paints enormous panels whereby she experiments with various materials: spectacular, deliberate compositions with dark colours. For example, sand and cardboard provide a profile and objects that she finds on the beach in the neighbourhood of her atelier in Scheveningen are incorporated. These sometimes colossal canvases stand in marked contrast to the more subtle works. How come Jansen has mastered so many different styles?

In the first instance, one might think that it takes a lot of guts to keep choosing a different approach. Do not stick to a success formula too soon but continue to grow. Surprising is the fact that in truth doubt appears to be the reason for the variations in her paintings. Because she is not quickly satisfied with a canvas, she asks herself every time how it could be done better. She is continually looking for something else, something new. Something that is inspired by her emotions.

According to Jansen abstract art is totally subjected to emotions. In contrast to figurative paintings in which the expressive aspects drown out the emotions. She prefers to be led by her emotions and that is why she has chosen for pure abstract paintings. Once in a while she reaches a creative impasse and she finds it difficult to break free of such an impasse. Her feeling tells her to contemplate the direction in which she must go. These periods contribute to the development of a new route. A new approach to her work announces itself. A fresh start is made. Her work is linked stylistically with that which was created in the past but it takes on a new direction. In fact these periods are links in her development as an artist. By continuously contemplating seriously what she is working on at that time and looking for the emotions that in fact give her the proper impulse to continue onwards, she takes large steps. Although the development of her style makes surprising leaps, on the whole there is a strong trend to be seen. All of her work namely radiates the intense emotion with which they have been painted so that they bubble with energy or fascinate through their subtlety.

Specific significance is not attributed by Jansen to her paintings. Although it may be tempting to seek significance in her paintings because diverse symbols can be recognised which reappear in various works. But the reason she uses them is more because the shapes intrigue her than that she means something significant. She wants to leave the viewer free to interpret for himself. Without the influence of a ready-made significance. When led only by the unknown emotions of the artist, the viewer can empathise with a work of art and attribute personal significance to it.

What Jansen wants to achieve is that a painting is well-balanced as far as composition, form and colour are concerned. By finding the correct balance a canvas acquires beauty. A work of art must fascinate people and in particular it must continue to fascinate. You have to want to keep it close to you because it does something to you. A painting as an ornament.

Marieke Uildriks
Art Historian.