Derk Thijs (Amsterdam, 1977) creates images that escape the here and now. His paintings, sculptures and spatial installations comprise a world of his very own in which the eye can linger. His work looks contemporary and classical at the same time, is both simple and complex, recognizable and foreign. In his broad view of the world, everything can coexist. Thijs calls this 'the fusion of the inner and outer worlds, of memories, emotions, observations and atmosphere'. That also applies to movements throughout art history. In his work he refers just as easily to Roman paintings and folk art as to modernist movements such as Cubism and Impressionism. What counts is the way in which he joins everything into a single entity. The result is often deceptively simple. That is primarily because Thijs ignores the laws of perspective and scarcely seems to introduce any sort of hierarchy in an image. Not infrequently his paintings evoke associations with children's drawings or medieval alterpieces in which everything happens at the same time, where time and place are completely interchangeable, and where the artist zooms in and out of the same image.
The same holds true with the painting Night Sky (2012), a nocturnal image of two figures beneath a shimmering starlit sky. But because Thijs both negates and emphasizes the illusion of the painting, the image suddenly seems to be set in motion. Foreground and background interrelate; wisps of clouds can also be seen as people who effortlessly dissolve into dark leaves and then form shadows further on. A painting as a dream in which fear and surprise go hand in hand, and where unexpected images, looming forth from every nook and cranny, deftly slide in and out of each other. With this Thijs never seems to be aiming to please the viewer, though; seduction is no point of departure for him. And yet each work has an almost elemental magnetism. As if we're recognizing something we've never seen before. In the more abstract Moonlit Obscure (2011) that attraction lies with the way in which he interweaves ancient symbolism with an architectonic structure: clearly and lucidly, but also cryptically and mysteriously. This is how a glimpse of another dimension could look.
The deceptive simplicity in the paintings of Thijs crops up again in spatial counterparts. His sculptures made of random and commonplace materials – popsicle sticks, peanuts, shards of glass and pieces of cardboard – bring to mind ritual objects that mediate between the present and eternity. The circular sculptures from the Summa series (2011), for instance, attest not only to Thijs's inventiveness and feeling for material; they also show how he emphasizes matter and at the same time allows it to transcend its origins. Sometimes those sculptures have a place in a spatial installation, a place that comes across as having arisen long ago. A dimly lit space, made from cardboard or, as at De Hallen in Haarlem, from fragments of painted styrofoam, which nonetheless conjure forth associations with the sacred and eternal quality of early Christian architecture. Here the mundane is brought to a standstill, with the simultaneous awareness that everything is changeable.
text: Esther Darley
translation: Beth O'Brien
photo: Machiel Botman