“It took this technology 30 years to develop, and we are still apes.”
Ellen de Meijer
Ellen de Meijer
It has taken the 60-year-old Dutch painter Ellen de Meijer as many years if not more than the development of the technology that dominates our lives today to achieve recognition within the art world outside of her home country of Holland. And it was an adjustment of her style that brought it about.
From a classical academic style of oil painting de Meijer adopted a deadpan aesthetic for her portraits that includes a nod towards the popular doe eyed waifs of Margaret Keane about whom Tim Burton made the 2014 bio-pic Big Eyes.
Eschewing the sentimentality inherent in Keane’s work, De Meijer explores the tension between the digital and the human with the devil being in the detail of her emotionless figure studies accessorized with smart phones, googles glasses or MP3 players.
As she explained in the press release for her 2015 New York exhibition “The last 20 years we have experienced an enormous evolution mainly driven by technology and the digital revolution. But our human instincts have not changed, despite that our modern society often expects us to ignore these. It’s this tension that inspires my work.”
De Meijer started her career as a commercial photographer but she wanted more, she yearned to express the seen and the unseen. She tried writing but eventually end up as a 28 year-old studying at the Tilburg Academy of Fine Arts. Upon completion de Meijer opened her own art school offering instruction to people of all ages and team building exercises to the corporate world. All the while producing her own work which culminated in a series of exhibitions during the 1990’s in Holland.
In 2010 de Meijer cut back on her teaching to concentrate more on her own work and in 2015 had her first New York exhibition The Digital Divide at the Unix Gallery.
As de Meijer explained to Blouinartinfo’s Anneliese Cooper “I’m trying to make figures that everybody can identify themselves with, so that nobody can walk away and say, ‘Oh, this is not about me, it’s not about my generation.’ It’s a bit of a war inside my head as well, because on the one hand, it’s universal and timeless, and on the other hand, I want to make it from exactly this period of life, in the digital period of life.”
About which she elaborated saying “I’m trying to paint you a picture of the things you know when you’re undressed in your bathroom or your bedroom, and you step before your mirror, and you say, ‘My God, what am I doing with my life.’ The grief you have, the doubts you have about your loves and your not-loves — that, I call the unseen.”
“Then, we have the seen,” she continues. “We have what we want to show, what we need to show. When you step out of your apartment, you’re all dressed up, not only with your clothes but also with your mind. You’re set on going and doing. I’m trying to let you see both.”
De Meijer’s current exhibition Dissolution is on show at Houston’s Unix Gallery until the 15th of March.