Dirk Janssens is a Belgian artist who inherited his passion for visual arts from his father and grandfather who were both artists. He practices art for himself at first and became a professional artist ten years ago, almost by chance, following a happy encounter in New York.
In his paintings, Dirk Janssens explores “the positive and emotional aspects of the basic concept of being human” and his work is a “tribute to life and love”.
It is interesting to observe how he translates that message through different series, some being minimalists, pop or abstract and even through installations in the public space.
The artist likes “to work with color, text and texture” and is “currently trying to separate those 3 styles from each other but in the long term (is) trying to merge them together”.
I was happy to know more about his path and upcoming projects!
Can you let me know more about your artistic path?
I come from an artistic family. My father and grandfather were sculptors from the academic world. I learned everything from my father in his studio, drawing, sculpting, material knowledge, art history, etc. I did also a lot of drawing classes in evening school in my early twenties.
How did you become a professional artist?
I’m 50 years young and I have been a hobby artist from my 20’s to my 40’s. I used to paint everywhere in my house but I never thought that I could make a professional career out of it.
When I was around 40, I decided to make a series of 18 pieces, (1m.20 x 1m.45) enlarged painted Polaroids images. These were colorful images, based primarily on text and positive quotes and worked on them in 2009/2011. In April 2011, I went to New York for a 2-week vacation. I visited many museums and galleries and enjoyed this wonderful city.
On the last day, I was biking in Chelsea, when I saw a gallery, CATM Chelsea, at 10th Avenue, 22nd street, that was still open. I decided to take a quick look inside. I met the curator of the gallery, Mr. David Zelikovsky and we talked for more than an hour. Then he asked to see some of my work. I showed him some pictures out of my backpack and he was immediately enthusiastic and said he was going to call the gallery owner. A little bit later he came back with the good news that they were going to give me a solo exhibition in the month of June. All of a sudden I realized that this was my first exhibition, I couldn’t believe it. The exhibition was very successful and they extended it because of the positive responses from the public and from the Chelsea community.
A year later, in 2012, I got my 2nd solo show in Los Angeles, at the BOA Gallery on Melrose Avenue, which went well too and then I had exhibitions in Saint-Tropez (France) and some group shows in my hometown, Leuven, (close to Brussels).
So that’s how I became a professional artist and it feels fantastic, as you also may know.
Unfortunately, the NY and LA galleries had to close their doors and business for economic reasons. It’s a tough time for mid size galleries. Now, I am self represented and I sell directly through Instagram but I’d love to work again with another gallery.
Your work combines abstract works, sculptures, installations and pop/minimalist paintings. I think it’s great that you express yourself in different ways. Do you work in series or go from one to the other simultaneously?
Yes, indeed my work is varied. I’m making now a completely different work than when I started 10 years ago. When I have an idea for a series, I make around 20 paintings in that style and then I end up with new ideas and new paths to discover. I constantly work on different works and styles at the same time.
I try to purify my work more and more into the abstract. I like to work with color, text and texture. I’m currently trying to separate those 3 styles from each other but in the long term I’m trying to merge them together.
In 2010 I started to paint with acrylic, but since this year I have switched to oil paint.
It’s a very big difference and different way of working. Much more difficult, but the colors are so much more intense and nicer in texture, shine and reflection.
I’m rather a disciplined person, each morning I do my administration, study my art history for 2 hours. I read a huge amount of biographies of artists every day. From 12:30 pm to 6:00 pm, I work alone in my studio. And every month, I go for 2 or 3 days to Paris or London to visit exhibitions and museums.
What is your goal with your work?
My goal is to increasingly refine my work and to continue explore further to the complete abstract. I like to make positive soulful art. Art that makes you feel good about yourself and others. Good vibes only.
I enjoyed looking at your photos and videos of the Love Art pop up in Paris. What inspired you to do this ? Do you have other projects of public art or installations?
The Love Art pop up in Paris was a sudden inspiration. I wanted to do something on Valentine’s Day in Paris. So I went to the hardware store and bought all kinds of material to make road signs, but with unusual, non-existent feel-good destinations.
To make people stand still for a moment and enjoy. The people in Paris couldn’t believe their eyes, everyone took pictures of it. That was my positive Valentine message to Paris.
I didn’t asked permission for anything, just drove there impulsively with a rented van, searched for 14 different places and simply placed the signs in public space and then waited for the reaction of the people. After a while I was chased away by the police. This could not be done today, due to the high safety standards now in Paris.
What do you like best in this career?
I love the freedom that you have as an artist, to be allowed to express yourself without limitations. As an artist you can do or make whatever you want. That feeling is wonderful.
Who are the artists that you look up to ?
My art preference is mainly for Modern art, from the mid-18th century to the late 19th century.
The classics, Manet, Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Kahlo, Rothko, De Kooning, Motherwell, Joan Mitchell, Reinhardt, Franz Klein, Bridget Riley, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Pierre Soulages, Christopher Wool, etc… too many to mention.
I also love the Japanese Gutai movement from the 60’s very much, Atsuko Tanaka, Kazuo Shiraga, etc..
What are your upcoming projects?
Right now I’m working on 2 new series: My color and composition based LOVE paintings and then a new series of monochromes with lots of texture. I hope to get everything ready by the end of the summer and then I will try to do another exhibition, preferably in Paris or London.
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