Cécile van Hanja


Tell us about yourself and your work.


My earliest childhood I’ve spent in the South of France, a land where everything was different than in the Netherlands. When I moved to this country (in 1972) I ended up in a suburb where every house was exactly the same. I immediately became homesick for the Mediterranean and its unspoilt nature. This feeling of completely loosing my roots in an alien country was essential for my artistic calling. In search for my own world I felt unhappy for a long time. Finally on the Gerrit Rietveld Academie I felt for the first time a little bit home again. I met self-willed people and I was treated as an individual character. I developed a fighting spirit there, especially against the massiveness and the accepted norms. You could say that I grew to maturity on the Rietveld Academie.


The German pavilion 2011
The German Pavilion, 2010, Acrylic and oil on canvas, size 51.2Hx59.1Wx1.2in


Where does the inspiration come from?


My source of inspiration is the modernism at the beginning of the 20th century, especially the architecture of Bauhaus and De Stijl, which for me is a reflection of order in a time of chaos.

I’m looking for subjects, often buildings or spaces that radiate a kind of tranquility and beauty. If I’ve found one I take photo’s of the architecture, mostly on sundays or unusual times when there are no people around. I manipulate the photo’s on a computer. I also change the colour scheme. With a fine-liner I transport the result on transparant paper. This drawing is the basis of the painting. Before I move this to the canvas however I concentrate on the composition. This is very important. The outcome has to yield an interesting display of lines and faces, that enables me to create the feeling of endless depth on the flat surface of the canvas. I use perspective lines and vanishing points and I concentrate on the possibility of stratification of the faces in different transparant colours. To do this I cover the lines on the canvas with tape.

I use different kind of paint in my work. Mostly thin layers of transparant acrylic under a top layer of oil paint. For me the colours imagine light in the painting. In a series I made in 2007/ 2008 I used a lot of fluorescent paint in the under layers to emphasise the artificial light of the big city. These paintings are full of contrast. The black, that I’ve put on in a thin layer on top, gives the nocturnal atmosphere. I let it play off against the neon light.
Recently I’m more inspired by the buildings of modernism and the use of natural daylight. The big windows in the buildings of Mies van der Rohe were a reason for me to paint daylight. In The Glass pavilion I used transparant paint to create the light. In The German Pavilion I was fascinated by the box-model that Mies van der Rohe created with his design (Barcelona, 1929). He could transform the box into different spaces. What is interesting is that you don’t know when you are in- or outside and that some simple forms can create such a beauty. By painting this construction in very fluid paint I emphasise the spatially of the building and the open construction. The turquoise refers to the Mediterranean where Barcelona is situated.


The glass pavilion
The Glass pavilion, 2015, Acrylic and oil on canvas,size 39,4Hx47,2Wx1.2in



Which is the need of your art?


I paint from an inner need to create order in a chaotic world. I observe that there is less space for individuality in our society. Everybody has to adept oneself and integrate, The globalisation makes the mass culture the big winner. At he same time I see buildings being desolated along the high ways, suburbs impoverish and lots of migrants hanging around unemployed, lost from their roots and excluded. In Deserted Buildings and Abandoned Suburb I’ve combined the utopian beauty of Mies van der Rohe with the emptiness and desolation that one experiences walking through the suburbs. In that way I do re-contextualize the commonplace surroundings, which you might as well see as a landscape. I can only hope I reveal unexpected sides of (our inner) Nature.


I believe that an artist always works from a biographical point of view. Themes like alienation, desolation, solitude and problems of adaptation are important for me because I’ve experienced them myself, but it’s not the only aspect of my work. There is also an occasion for making a good painting.
For example when I was in 2006 for the first time in New York I was overwhelmed by the colours of the commercials on Times Square. Although the commercials themselves are a despicable excrescence of our society I thought the colours in that setting were beautiful. This artificial light of Times square inspired me to make Trans Chaos. The advertising pillars and billboards I’ve left empty as a white face in the painting to express the emptiness of their content.
An other work that is inspired by the artificial light of New York is Surrounding Buildings. Here I used the frog-perspective to emphasise the claustrophobia of a big city.


Trans chaos
Trans chaos, 2010, Acrylic and oil on canvas, size 47.2H x 63W x 1.2 in



Tell us about your experiences in art fairs, exhibitions and others.


Not long after my graduation of the Rietveld Academie a big company offered me to create an exhibition at their place and they also bought an piece. Soon after that I found a gallery where I still feel at home. They stimulated me a lot and showed my work on several Art fairs, in Zürich and Amsterdam among other things, and helped me creating a catalogue in 2010.
Besides this I’ve gotten a grant from a governmental fund, and was invited to work as an ’artist in residence’ in Chateau La Napoule in the South of France and at the Canserrat International Artcenter in Spain.
I can say that I really needed all this stimulus to develop myself.
Recently I was chosen by an international jury initiated by the Saatchi Gallery to show my work in London and meet curators like Nigel Hirst.
This feedback was really helpful for me and an encouragement to go on.
The taste of my audience on the other hand never had any influence on my paintings. I paint what I have to paint, wether it is appreciated or not.
In other words the positive feedbacks were stimulating but not in a way that it influences me in the proces of conceiving.


I participated in a group exhibition ”Urban Landscape IV” at gallery Wegert & Sadocco (2013) Beside this I had exhibitions at the Vishal (Haarlem) , ABC Architectuurcentrum Haarlem(2012), Gallery BMB (Amsterdam) and The Mondriaanhuis Amersfoort (2015)
Further I will broaden my horizon coming year to the US ( NY and Miami ),in the next months I will have a collaboration project with The Art Platform NYC.


surrounding buildings 2011
Surrounding buildings,2010,Acrylic and oil on canvas, size47.2Hx63Wx1.2in



What does it means the art for you?


I think that a work of art is an answer to the obtrusiveness of idealized advertisement aesthetics, a reaction to the avalanche of daily life impressions from the street, magazines, internet and television.
In my opinion it should create consciousness and filtrate our perception, so that we can distinguish importance from humbug, and provide us a home for our emotions, chaos and fear. I admire Art most when it stands for universal beauty and gives us peace and quiet as a reaction to the fleeting consumer society.
Unlike the Avant Garde in the past I don’t see an inner dichotomy between tradition and contemporariness.
For me contemporary art is part of a binding story, a story that connects and creates unity. My work roots in the modernistic range of thought. Mondriaan as a pioneer in his strive for harmony and unity on the canvas inspires me. The modernistic architecture is an other inspiration source, especially architects like Mies van der Rohe and Waro Kishi who emphasise the immaterial aspect of a building by creating an open structure.



Schilderijen abandoned suburb 057 (2)
Abandoned suburb, 2011, Acrylic and oil on canvas, size 63Hx47,2Wx1.2in



What do you think about the art system in your country?


The Art system in the Netherlands used to be very supporting for Young artist who were conscientious. They could get financial support or even a grant when they were seen as a promising talent. I was lucky to get one and it helped me build up a collection in the first years after Artschool.
The budgetary savings from a couple of years ago were very harsh for the cultural sector however and it made this whole system disappear.
I’m therefore not very positive about the system anymore.
Besides that I think it is very hard to get recognition as an dutch artist in the Netherlands. Only when one reaches recognition abroad first the artist will be accepted here. It was the same with Mondrian already. In my opinion collectors in the US are more willing to buy what they really like and that for them recognition counts less.


Deserted buildings
Deserted buildings, 2011, Acrylic and oil on canvas, size 74.8Hx51.2Wx1.2in



What is the future of art?


I do think indeed that in a subtle way Art can steer peoples behaviour. The underlying turmoil against the uniformity of moral and habit, the same IKEA’s, fast-food stores and supermarkets everywhere, the mental distress the world seems to manoeuvre itself in, gives an open mind for a different approach. I see an upcoming tendency of inviting artists to serve in think tanks or governmental commissions. Like philosophers and writers artists are taken more seriously.
In my paintings I created within the architectural structure a certain alienation and abstraction. For me it stands for peace and order contrasted with the chaotic world. I’m searching for serenity by representing my own inner space. If that can make a small difference in sociopolitical questions then that is more than welcome.
By creating something unique and (often) handmade, Art gives space to the individual and that stands out in a world where these things are very rare.

Cécile van Hanja


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