painting in Norway
When I studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the 1970s, it was a time when painting was considered totally outdated (this happens quite regularly). I remember very well the question of a fellow student towards the end of my studies: Do you still paint? In such moments, I always remembered Kurt Schwitters in my defence, who, despite Dada and Merz, still painted en plein air every summer in Norway and also did so later in emigration in Norway (photo) and then in England, and earned his living with it. As a student I visited his grave in Ambleside in the Lake District. Later, Schwitters' remains were moved to Hannover. He was one of my artistic heroes at the time. Not only that he dared to oppose the main stream of the 1920s, 1930s – with all the consequences of emigration from Nazi Germany, but that he knew how to maintain his independence just as much in the face of the institutionalising avant-garde. This attitude won me over for him.
When I myself began to paint more intensively in the open air, a painting moped was needed for this purpose. I converted my Rixe accordingly (photo), and was thus able to roam the landscape of the Lower Rhine (flat) and the Bergisches Land (hilly) in a relaxed manner. I had integrated a picnic drawer under the compartment for the paint tubes – perfect!
It's been a long time since then. The work in the studio and thus the absence of the motif has made my painting more and more selfreferential. But you can still feel that I painted en plein air for a while. The colour in my paintings does not follow a programme, it always seems atmospheric, changeable. Sun, wind and rain are in it. Sometimes it is ephemeral, as if washed away by the rain (my connection to Edvard Munch, who let his paintings ripen in the rain – except that I use a Kärcher), then as if illuminated or punchy present. In painting, nature is no longer the object, but all the more a player and adversary in the process itself. Putting the canvas under water, letting the thin paint spread out on the canvas and find its shape - this kind of self-organisation of the painting works for me when I paint.
Is plein air painting finally finished for me today? To work outdoors, in the midst of greenery (John Constable!) - that remains a temptation that I will perhaps give in to once again.
Jan Kolata, 2023
Jan Kolata (DE)
painting on the Lower Rhine