JOHAN VAN MULLEM
“…C’est un grand écart entre le rêve et la réalité sans être ni dans l’un ni dans l’autre.
Chaque tableau est une empreinte de cette expérience…”
“It is a deep gap between dream and reality without being neither of them.
Each painting is the print of this experience…”
Johan Van Mullem was born in Congo in 1959 to Belgian parents. He grew up moving around the world as a result of his parents various diplomatic postings, including a seven years stay in Tunisia. Johan has always been an autodidact. He started drawing at the age of five and never stopped since then, same as his father and Grand-Father. His family roots are in the City of Bruges. Johan studied Architecture in Brussels.
Later on Johan began exploring Etching and Painting. Today he paints with Etching Ink; he is probably one of the only Artists using this medium.
His paintings are in major private collections and Museum collections throughout Europe. He has held solo exhibitions in Art Galleries located in London, Paris, New York and Brussels. His work was exhibited in various European Museums.
Please find below small video footage about the artist.
SOLÈNE wants the viewer to explore and understand the world of each artist by entering their studio life, their daily exploration or even a show, a project that has marked them but more generally SOLÈNE’s vision is for the viewers to see what inspire them, their artistic process and what they wish to share and transmit.
Since we’ve met, I found out that you were previously an architect in Brussels. How long have you been a full time painter and artist?
It is an anachronism to consider that there would be a” before” and an” after” or a beginning and then an end when it comes to "being" and especially in creation. We are born painter and artist. We do not become one and even less full time or quarter time or part time. We are or we are not ... artist. I know I’ve never been an architect because despite my studies and my diploma I never felt to be one so I’ve never built any house. On the other side It takes time to cross the boarders of self-confidence and awareness which are necessary tools to reach the aim of being and be considered an artist.
It takes a lot to give up on a steady job and become a full time artist, did anything happened or did you feel inspired or perhaps did you let go of any fear and went after what you truly wanted to do?
Life is a succession of facts and gestures, of seasons, of dreams, hope but also bitter fights. Everyday is the sum of the old days offering a new point of view on the future. There are certitudes that remain meanwhile the wrongs thoughts finally disappear. I can’t remember since when I wanted to be an artist (must has happened in my mother ‘s belly) but this is what I wanted not to do but to be. Once I felt the planets aligned I took the plunge. The Covid period clearly demonstrated the fragility of our world and system which is only incertitude and unsteadiness. Steady job is only an intellectual construction, which can kill you slowly.
What currently inspires you to paint?
Not a long time ago the main subject of my work where faces. Unknown people but coming from an unconscious world through an instinctive painting. No person in particular but more a kind of « rebirth » which results from the combination between movement and light.
Today I have the feeling I am leaving slowly my inner world and started the experience of the “outside” world. New landscapes. Crossing the frontier of abstraction, which remains close. Nature opened my mind and landscapes brought me to dreams. I’m still working with my inner material, a mix of memory, energy, emotions, movements but without any identification to a specific place but recognisable by anyone.
At Solène, we are going to offer your new series creating during the lockdown, I feel some sort of novelty in this series. Somehow it feels you have been inspired by nature and landscape. Is it due to staying at home or reflecting on our nature, our issues, our world and how vital it is to care about all this during the lockdown?
The lockdown has of course consequences even if it didn’t change my way of living. The general atmosphere, ambiance and way of communication reinforced me in my own way of doing, as I felt less guilty to be an isolated minded person. At that moment everyone had to be someway “ alone”. Also the notion of time changed for everyone and gave me a sensation of quietness and tranquillity. I had the feeling to suddenly open my eyes discovering my environment. Surrounded by a magnificent nature. This was the beginning of a new “voyage”. Certainly it opened my mind also on this reality of the “outside world”. The planet we are living on. The planet that feeds us not only with food but also with beauty.
You described your painting has being totally intuitive. Going from the subconscious to the light of the consciousness, adding layers after layers until the painting reaches the final evidence. That final stage is it for you, subconsciously awareness or a conscious decision?
Painting is fundamentally having a dialogue with yourself. The painting itself is a kind of mirror, sometime a wall, another time a window. Each of those stories has an end. Not a definitive end, but much more as a page of a book. An inexhaustible book. The final evidence (btw a beautiful expression) is not only an intellectual (conscious) decision or only a subconsciously awareness (btw also a nice expression). It ‘s both decision as when you have a dialogue it stops when both have decided it might stop. It doesn’t mean the discussion is finished. It only means that the step is completed and you need to move on no matter if it is forwards, upwards, backwards, or a step on the side.
Is there for you a correlation with paintings, traces, build on layers after layers on a canvas and us, human leaving our traces every day on the Earth and even beyond within ourselves, our beings through lives, stages, path and our journey?
Totally. The principle of Man (Humanity) is multiplicity and not the unique. Everything can be divided indefinitely or is part of something bigger or more extended. We couldn’t exist without generational grow. A heart cannot work without blood. Lungs without air. Even when we sleep we move quite fast with the whirlwind of the earth among the planets in the cosmos. Maybe a painting is an accelerated story of a human being, or a cell. The image of a soul, painted with bloody ink on the air of a canvas.