"ART IS ABOUT BEING FREE."
Bas Nijenhuis (born 1976) is a professional artist living in Groningen (the Netherlands). He creates figurative art, mostly oil paintings. As a young child, he was drawing a lot from fantasy and sometimes from life. Also, these drawings were about scenes or ‘worlds’ of their own in which one can lose oneself a little.
A professional career came later when a classical art academy was founded in his city. Before this, he studied and worked as a psychologist.
His figurative work is mainly about tonality, the human psyche or human condition, the paint application itself and sometimes decorative aspects. Mainly he paints things that have life in them or are alive. Searching for the abstract within the reality he considers it to be important. The technique could be called somewhat impressionistic, but not quite. A favorite artist of Nijenhuis is Antonio Mancini who also has a distinct paint application, an abstract core, but still making paintings that reflect the real world.
Bas’ works have been selected for Dutch events like the Dutch portrait award 2017 and in 2019 the work: ‘Girl without a pearl earring’ was selected for the BP Portrait Award in London, just to name a few. Recently, he was on national television, where a famous Dutch celebrity was painted by three known artists. The celebrity, Maarten van Rossem (historian and TV personality) chose the work Nijenhuis had made.
Bas' art allows us to give free rein to our own imagination. His art is capable of enveloping us in a world between what is and what is not. It is becoming entrapped in a moment where you can see how each subtle brushstroke gives more than one story to tell and you are a witness to this all. His works of art allows us to step before an entrance that contains an array of tales and each one deserves one’s attention. In all, his works of art have a certain freedom to them that simply invite you for more.
Q. What role does the artist have in society?
A. I think artists have one foot in society and the other is more on the outside. I see them as observers from the edge of society. An artist should have the freedom to paint and depict what they want or perceive. This freedom is key to making art. Most artists create something that is reflective of society as it is. It is a very personal reflection though and as such, it is a non-verbal account of the world around us. In this regard, art may function as a mirror of some kind offering a different perspective. As a byproduct, art is also a visual way to document history.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. In Dutch this is called ‘boswachter’ a forester I believe in English. Roaming free in the woods seemed fun. There are not a lot of woods left nowadays so I seek my freedom elsewhere.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. Not really, what is art? I draw –or scratched- from an early age. But is that art? I don’t think so. The true question is when does something becomes art?
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. After I decided to apply for the academy. Before it was just for fun and I didn’t give it too much consideration. This decision changed that and I started to draw a lot. This was in 2009.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. It evolved from just painting. Also studying and copying the artists I love helped in this regard. But you cannot be a mere copying machine of another artist. That would be rather boring as well. There seems to be a fairly large group of Rembrandt paint-a-like’s. There is only one Rembrandt as there is only one ‘me’ or ‘you’. I aim to become the best ‘me’-painter in my own way. But of course, as an artist you should use (and steal) techniques from artists before you. This is part of the heritage.
Q. How do you visualize the textures of your work?
A. I don’t visualize an end result. I think of what would contribute to an interesting surface or texture. So, in that way I layer paint or put texture to the paint surface that I expect will express something. Usually, this works in a way (or I make it work in several steps).
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. It expresses my interest or love in that what you see when looking at it. When I paint something, I usually do not paint the subject per se. It is much more the personalization of me experiencing the subject. In that regards, the aim is to express fascination and love.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Wanting to paint beautifully or to paint to show that I can paint well. This was more present when I started than it is now. Now I find more beauty in the rough or more boldly stated paintstroke. Just paint what I see and that’s it. It gives a sort of perfect imperfection. Trying to paint beautifully is not working, just paint, and that in itself is plenty beautiful. Painting is a means not an end in itself. Although I can really enjoy looking at paintings painted well.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. Not so much. Restricting my work as a psychologist gave me more time, less money and more richness.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. I love Andrew Wyeth and Antonio Mancini the most currently. In their works, I can feel they really liked to paint what they saw. And the compositions, colors, and painthandling are superb.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Sometimes it can be. I share my atelier. It is nice to discuss art in general or the works we are making. I also give painting lessons and meet other creatives this way.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I like to cook and eat nice food, sleeping is also nice and I like the fact that I am alive.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Art is all about freedom of expression.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. If my work invokes a reaction or an emotion with others that is one thing. I paint the things I am fascinated with or that I love. I hope others can sense this. Success is also becoming the best painter that I can be. The better I become the better I can express myself. If my art is recognized in this regard then I am on the right track!
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. Pursue what you love: fail a thousand times and get up a thousand times.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. Whenever looking at your artwork: you have ‘to see yourself’ in it. This was an advice given by a teacher of mine: Ruud de Rode. It is quite an abstract notion.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. We are all one generation don’t you think?