artist statement

Ton Kraayeveld – artist statement

My work was once characterized in the past as ‘retro for the advanced’ (Lynne van Rijn, review exhibition Transit Station, Galerie Nouvelles Images, 2007).
More recently, in a review of my exhibition UMZUG (Dordrechts Museum, 2014), Domeniek Ruyters asked the question ‘Why are painters so often better than photographers at grasping the zeitgeist? If not today’s, then yesterday’s’. Then to characterize my work as follows: ‘I see a melancholy world, which is in the process of changing. All the stronger the longing for the past, which is nevertheless lost. Kraayeveld paints the Autumn of Modernity. The world is empty, half-destroyed. Manfully clinging to dreams of the past. Title of a painting with an empty meeting setting ‘Conference (for another Utopia)’. And yet everything is not heavy. For that, Kraayeveld has too much painterly pleasure, light forms of undermining, light resistance to all delusion.’

A certain retrospection of history, passage of time or delay thereof play a role in the choice of themes and subjects in my work. Often these themes relate to impressions and experiences I personally gain during residencies or travel visits, including a more recent exploratory visit to China (2018) and residency projects in Leipzig (2014), Hungary (2011), Berlin (2003), Zimbabwe (2000). I cannot deny a certain preference for non-Western places with a controversial cultural-political or ideological history or background. At the same time, similarities and contradictions with our Western modernist or cultural traditions then mirror in them.


More than “painting as action,” in my work “the painting as image or meaning carrier” is the object of investigation. Concepts of space and time in the sense of the mental space of imagination and reflection are deliberately opposed or juxtaposed with the object-based pictorial space and physical presence of the painting in relation to maker and viewer. I consciously create a tension between the illusionary world of the image/representation and the object-like physical place the work occupies in concrete space.

Language or text, in the form of words related to space and time, often form an additional layer here. This then functions as a concrete addition or questioning of the illusionary figuration in the painting, but can also function as an autonomous image or subject in a subsequent work with words such as: REAL – HERE – EXIT – NOW – IN – OUT – IF – TIME. My paintings can be read as a play between real and unreal or between meaning and non-meaning. Figuration and abstraction are not mutually exclusive but are each other’s mutual complement.