Liesbeth Heenk - Art Historian

I first saw Hans Barends’ work on a sunny late summer’s day, in a magnificent villa situated on the border of the woods around Spa in the Belgian Ardennes. It was the kind of nine teenth century house thatyou only see in old French films: curtains fluttering in the warm summer breeze,French doors opening onto a patio overgrown with vines. And then a garden youcould get lost in: during the day it is a paradise for birds, with a dove cote and a nineteenth century duck shed. At night the foxes come out to play, and artistic guests can snore undisturbed in the derelict caravan at the edge of the forest. That sultry summer day will remain engraved in my memory, due to the impression made on me by the paintings that nonchalantly decorated the walls of that splendid villa.


I had never heard of Hans Barends when an old classmate of mine asked me to come to Belgium to appraise his work. After all,that is my profession. The time had come for Hans Barends to show his work to the world.


In the light, high-ceilinged, rooms of Villa des Glaïeuls, I discovered the work of an artist who, after graduating from the Hague Academy, has devoted his career to rising above the anecdotal of painting on canvas. His work ha sprogressed from naturalistic early works, the studies during the Hague Academy period, strong abstract paintings with balanced vertical and horizontal monochromes, intimate figurative interiors to, finally, lyrically abstract canvases drenched in sunlight. Despite the diversity of the paintings, one quality characterizes the whole collection: every canvas has been painted by a colourist in heart and soul.


His work from the last couple of years shows the results of years of painting and searching for the right form o fexpression: a perfect synthesis of figuration and the abstract. Wonderful oases of serenity in this turbulent world, in which there is very little space, even in the arts, for quiet beauty, and where everything seems to be focused on sensationalism and disharmony. The paintings have a highly meditative character, and invite you to become part of a luminous existence in which forms and colours live together in perfect harmony. Tender, and at the same time, extremely powerful. They are poetic translations of a love of nature in the broadest sense of the word. The rhythmic planes, organic line structures and gentle curves give a sensual impression, and do not pay any attention to the limitations of the two-dimensional canvas. Barends’ paintings embrace the beauty of life. This is pure artistic talent that transcends the ordinary. Lyrical work from an artist with a flawless feeling for colour!


Hans Barends uses his memories as the starting point for these paintings. Executed with informal brushstrokes, the paintings appear spontaneous and intuitive. However, it is the kind of spontaneity that only an experienced artist can achieve.


Looking at his paintings brings to mind the works of Willem de Kooning. Both are master colourists, each with their own distinct palette and signature. The large De Kooning exhibition in theStedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1968 was an eye-opener, but it is typical ofHans Barends’ individuality and obstinacy that he did not copy the artist. On the contrary, he arrived at the present stage by following a natural path, completing a voyage of discovery during which various styles were explored and understood. This has resulted in the attainment of an ultimate synthesis in his current work, in which the visible reality has been translated in a very original way into the universal.


Liesbeth Heenk - Art Historian