16 Stoddart Street

Newcastle upon Tyne


Daily 10am - 5pm

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In the Studio / Rob Van Hoek

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Dutch landscape painter Rob Van Hoek returns to the gallery this winter as our headline artist, adorning the walls with explorations into the pattern and atmosphere of cultivated landscapes throughout the seasons.

Rob has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the Netherlands, UK, Denmark and France. His paintings explore the patterns and atmosphere of landscapes, particularly cultivated landscapes.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Now that I look back, I realise that my first real gallery exhibition was in 1994. It is hard to say exactly when you start as an artist, especially when you are self-taught like me. But when I take this as a starting point, this exhibition is also the 25-year anniversary of being a professional artist.  

As I said, I am self-taught, and that involved a lot of trial and error. But a trained artist will go through this too and I don’t see it as a drawback, more as a process to find my own style.

What inspires you?

More than 99% of my paintings are landscape paintings, so that is obvious. I am particularly interested in the colors, rhythms, patterns and textures in the landscape. When making my paintings I use all these elements to create a composition; it is a landscape painting, but it is not one specific place.

I live in the city, with not much countryside around me and after doing this for so many years I felt that I needed to see the countryside more often. Not for painting these places, but for the visual information and experiencing the sense of space and light. These ever-changing impressions evoked by of the time of day and the changing seasons never stop to thrill me.

For two years now I have had a countryside studio, a mobile home in De Achterhoek - a beautiful rural part of the Netherlands. Whenever I can I go there, to be in the fields and to paint in my studio. I can see the influences in my paintings, it has been very inspiring.

Another inspiring theme is the element of space in the landscape. There are so many ways to deal with this. I am not so much into linear perspective. There are many great paintings made this way, but it is just not my way. First of all, I don’t paint existing places; I make a composition with landscape elements. But on a more theoretical level I much agree with David Hockney. When your eyes, your head, and your body are moving, your point of view is too. Regarding perspective, I also feel a lot of kinship with naive painters as well.

In my artist statement I have described this as follows: “It is evident that I do not use a linear perspective in my paintings as standard. Sometimes I do, but often I use a bird's eye view or a flat representation of the space. But these ways of looking are usually combined to create my paintings. This alters the sense of details; in this respect, I feel a lot of kinship with naive painters. I have to say that I am completely opportunistic in this, ultimately the character and composition of the painting is what matters.”

I can feel the rain coming

I have been for a walk on a winter's day

If it's cloudy or bright

"For me it is better to make a lot of paintings and be spontaneous while working, than to play safe "

Tell us about your workspace.

Well, I have two. In the city I use a room in my house as my studio, large enough to work in. I don’t need a large place to work in, in fact I need more space to store all the canvasses, frames, finished work and boxes for sending. I use this studio mostly for the framing and preparing of canvasses.

But nearly all my paintings are made in the countryside studio. There is not so much to say about my working space here too, all I need is my easel, my brushes, my paint and good light. But the countryside around my working place is much more important.

Tell us about your creative process, do you work with a particular routine?

First, I need to prepare my paintings with a textured surface - a lot of layers; a bit of a boring process. I do this in large batches (speeding up drying with a fan), I want to have prepared canvasses available in many sizes.

I make a lot of little drawings. Sometimes I use these as a starting point for a painting. When painting, I start with a charcoal sketch, immediately painted over with large brushes. As I go on, gradually the forms and shapes become more refined and when the paint starts to dry a bit, I begin to add details. For the details I use the back of a brush, cotton swabs, kitchen paper; everything that is suitable to get the right mark-making, lines and shapes.

In my painting process I use some cold-wax-medium. This is an advantage here; the paint is a bit thicker and this works much easier. Once the paint dries, I am no longer able to manipulate the paint - so, there is always an element of time-pressure. Usually I don’t find this a problem, but with larger paintings it can be a challenge.

For me it is better to make a lot of paintings and be spontaneous while working, than to play safe. So sometimes it doesn’t work out. When I realize this and the paint hasn’t dried completely, I remove all the paint. Or I decide later that a painting is not what I want and destroy it. For a while I am in a bad mood, but I have accepted that this is an unavoidable part of my creative process.

"There is always a tension between being satisfied with the results and the goals you have when starting with a painting"

In the hours of twilight

A hilltop paved with gold

Do you have a favourite piece at the exhibition?

I can’t say I do - I always feel there is room for improvement. On the other hand, I made a selection for this exhibition with many favourite paintings. There is always a tension between being satisfied with the results and the goals you have when starting with a painting.

How do you go about naming your paintings?

All the titles I use are lines (or parts of lines) from song lyrics. Mostly from pop music, sometimes a title of a jazz song. There are so many references to the landscape to be found - and the sky, the weather, the time of day, the time of year, and so on - which I gratefully make use of.

Usually, I give the title to the painting when it is finished - browsing through my collection of lyrics and selecting the most appropriate one. But sometimes I make a painting with a particular lyric in mind. Working from this concept is inspired by the novel “The Songlines”, by Bruce Chatwin.

Some titles I like so much I have used them several times such as: “A hilltop paved with gold”, “A sky about to rain”.

Which artist’s work do you admire?

There are so many. Well known artist like Van Gogh, Vermeer, Pissarro, Bonnard, Weissenbruch, early Corneille, Hockney, etc. from medieval times up to present. Even when I am not a particular fan of a certain style or painter, there can still be a lot to like.

Recently, I visited an exhibition in Museum More. One more reason I like my countryside studio so much, it is only a 15-minute walk to this great museum for Modern Realism. The exhibition was about British realists from 1920-1930. I saw so many fantastic paintings from painters I had never heard about, it was a joy to see.

Rob Van Hoek's headline collection is currently on display in the gallery until 23 February 2020.

All of Rob's work is available to purchase online and in the gallery.

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