- Mural by Reynier de Muynck
If artistic inspiration were to be found only in magnificent landscapes and soaring cities then the Netherlands would scarcely be able to produce an artist of distinction in any field. In fact it’s almost a truism that neither Dutch society nor the bland landscape of the Low Countries can ever evoke a sense of grandeur or mysticism. But maybe it’s for this very reason that Holland has a history of producing nonconformist artists capable of seeing beyond their mundane surroundings and expressing a fantastical inner vision.
Three contemporary Dutch painters who have found their sources of inspiration exploring the borderlands between the reality we usually perceive and the magical worlds just beyond reach of our perception are Jake Baddeley, Rene Zwaga, and Reynier de Muynck. In the time honoured tradition of selecting a category in which to bracket them they could conceivably be described as “Magic Realists”.
The term Magic Realism was first used by German art historian Franz Roh in 1925 to describe a post-Expressionist visual arts movement then emerging throughout Europe. Seen at the time as the “New Objectivity” Magic Realism was envisaged as a fresh method of seeing and depicting the world with clear-headed detachment. The term fell into disuse then reappeared in the 1960s, having come to mean something other than was first intended by its originator. By then Magic Realism had crossed over into literature, especially that of South America, where writers sought to expand definitions of reality by stretching the boundaries imposed by rational materialism.
"Brother Sun/Sister Moon" by Jake Baddeley
There’s an important difference between Magic Realism and pure fantasy. Magic Realist artists typically introduce unusual juxtapositions, eerie, unsettling atmospheres and naive elements into their art. Often using the techniques of the Old Masters they use these to establish, and then twist the illusion of reality. They bring the world we know into contiguity with the magic inherent in the ordinary, allowing reality to expand and shift before our eyes. Fantasy meanwhile, creates a world of the imagination in which to tell its story.
In much the same way as the late 19th century Symbolist movement Magic Realism subverts the values of rationalism and materialism by exploring the realms of emotion, imagination, and spirituality. By introducing fantastical or mythical elements into seemingly realistic contexts its exponents have sought to portray a deeper and more mysterious reality than the one we encounter in everyday life, for example, by giving pictorial form to psychic experience and dreams. Unsurprisingly neither Symbolism nor Magic Realism has achieved widespread recognition in the world of mainstream art (try looking through a standard art history textbook for either of the terms; any mention is cursory at best).
In technique and subject matter Jake Baddeley’s canvasses appear to have most in common with the more allegorical representations of the Renaissance. Symbols, numbers, scraps of text and elements of Western iconographic tradition are bound together as in a dream, forming new relationships that follow an intangible inner logic.
Baddeley brings this strange, half recognizable world to life without using the faculty of critical thought. The resulting intuitive ideas take form in sketches in which the essence of the painting is largely implicit. Using thin layers of paint, the image continues to expand until the whole of the dream is captured.
There’s very little information to be found anywhere about the artist himself, but a paragraph on his page on the website Beinart may give an insight into the source of his inspiration.
"Geometry" by Jake Baddeley
Rene Zwaga was born in Amsterdam in 1958 and worked as a housepainter before training as a teacher of arts and crafts. After a change of heart he retired from teaching in order to follow his dream of becoming an artist. He has carefully evolved his own technique and style over the years, developing and applying unique methods in his imagery. While his work can sometimes be confrontational, blending realism with the fantastic, and spirituality with the materialistic, many of his paintings are an expression of his own life and loves and his journey towards spiritual harmony.
Playing With Light by Rene Zwaga
Reynier de Muynck
Born in 1952 in the province of Zeeland Reynier de Muynck is not just a painter, but a conceptual artist who has made his whole life a work of art. While his paintings display a stunning technique in intimate portraits, murals and ceiling paintings, landscapes and still lifes, his need to make contact with and express the true magic of existence seems to be the foundation stone on which his art is built. The quality of his work is even more startling when one realises that he is more or less self-taught, having spent no longer than a brief period at a Belgian art school in the late 1960’s.
Influences and sources of inspiration include: Hieronymus Bosch, Dali, the Pre-Raphaelites, Eastern mysticism and philosophy, and his own adventures with the collective subconscious.
Drapery by Reynier de Muynck
“As human beings, we limit our sense of perception to what is generally comfortable and present in everyday life. In limiting our perceptions to suit our individuality, we miss the vastness of other perceptions and the doors they represent. Though we have been conditioned to perceive nothing except our own world, this does not mean we cannot enter other realms.”
Michael Parkes, Magic Realist artist
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