Sand paintings present the challenge of making a painting of the landscape using the materials of the landscape itself. Wherever I travel, I bring back sand, soil or rock fragments from all over the world. The concrete frescoes are frescoes made from contemporary materials.

Sand paintings

The material

I became fascinated by the many diverse colours of sand and soil in nature and also by the challenge of handling new materials in my art. During a working trip in California I began work on a series of sand paintings. The subtle colour gradations of the various kinds of soil I found along the Californian coast range from yellow ochre to burnt sienna and grey to deep black. I even came across green soil. I continued my search wherever I travelled. The marl in Limburg comes in three colours: light yellow, yellow ochre and salmon pink. I found pearl-white and warm, soft pink sand in Curacao and Bonaire. I recently obtained beautiful deep purple sand on the Canary Islands of La Palma and La Gomera. The colours resembling lilac come from the environs of Barcelona.

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The techique

Sand is a unique medium. Unlike some paint varieties, its colour does not fade, so sand paintings do not deteriorate in colour over time. Sand paints the picture and tells its own story. I am not interested in using paint to imitate nature; wherever possible I use materials in their original form. For instance, I grind up marl and soft stone varieties to a coarse grit. I create a painting by applying a layer of glue to an unprepared canvas or wooden panel, upon which I sprinkle the various colours of sand and soil in the form or movement that I seek to create. It might be the suggestion of a landscape from my memories or from a sketch. By applying multiple layers of glue and soil on top of each other, the colours form overlapping layers, thus creating an intriguing depth. Sometimes I also use pieces of lapis lazuli to achieve a particular blue colour, or a blue canvas or blue distemper as background. I use malachite for bright green, while coarse marble powder is white and transparent in effect. My technique is related to fresco painting and to the sand paintings of the North American Indians; however, I have developed my own individual technique, working methods and subject matter.

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Concrete fresco

The technique

I was inspired to make contemporary style frescoes after following a fresco course in 2001 in Venice and visiting an exposition in Sanatorium Zonnestraal. Zonnestraal was designed by Jan Duiker and was a shining example of the Dutch 'Nieuwe Bouwen' architectural style, as the first building made from reinforced concrete. The frescoes are made from sand and cement rather than the traditional sand and wet lime. The human figures have been carved into the material "in fresco".

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