A Lively Still Life

by Sanne ten Brink, Conservator ING Art Management

The art lover who visits Lieuwe Kingma’s wonderful, sunny studio in Hilversum immediately understands what it is that fascinates this artist: the still life. There are vases and pots with dried flowers all over the place. Kingma has introduced structure within the chaos that reigns.

Lieuwe Kingma is a figurative painter, which is why his work fits seamlessly into the ING Collection. He is represented in the collection with five works, which hang in various office locations. At ING, art is not only an essential part of the company’s identity; it also gives color to the daily work environment. People often work in the same office space for a long time. It is important that this space stimulates them and fosters their creative thinking as much as possible. There is no room or corridor without a work from the art collection. From time-to-time these pieces of art change location. Paintings are regularly loaned to national and international museums. In 1996, ING selected several of Lieuwe Kingma’s paintings for the ‘New Acquisitions’ exhibition at Slot (castle) Zeist.

The still life is a leitmotiv in Kingma’s work. He doesn’t tell a story, he simply reveals what is there. Kingma is not a still life painter in the traditional sense. He doesn’t paint directly from reality, but he does assemble still lifes in his studio. The composition already exists in his mind’s eye and is studiously worked out. Themes arise out of a combination of perception and memory and are simplified to abstract color fields when put on canvas. Within these fields, the objects are accentuated by their contours. Still Life with Chair from 1994 shows how the background, the foreground and the lines of the composition all run together higgledy-piggledy. In this way a tension is created between reality and imagination. It is this tension in particular that makes Kingma’s work so interesting.

Changing perspectives in his still lifes, such as a bird’s-eye view or a frog’s perspective, make for large color fields that lend a specific charge and dynamic aspect to the compositions. In Still Life with Yellow Vase from 1994, for example, the vase almost fills the entire canvas. Kingma positions the flowers and the vase like pieces on a chessboard, letting them form a contrast with their hard and lifeless background. Kingma is not a painter of the spontaneous gesture, but rather looks for the right balance. The boundary between figurative and abstract is never a sharp, straight line for him. Nevertheless, reality is always his point of departure.

Kingma likes to experiment with light and color. His paintings are characterized by strong color accents. His work Still Life with Green Bottle I from 1994 is powerful and balanced. Kingma doesn’t see the colors on his canvas as separate from one another, but as a unified whole. Color and form reinforce each other in a subtle manner. The use of rapid brush strokes stands out. The still life is built up by means of broad brush strokes. Kingma applies several layers of paint, one after the other. The various layers of paint are applied so sparingly that in some places several layers are visible at once. This technique gives his paintings an interesting and very transparent structure. In Still Life with Pumpkin from 1994, this transparent structure of the paint can be seen quite clearly.

On behalf of ING Art Management, I want to congratulate Lieuwe Kingma with this beautifully illustrated catalogue.