Persona July, 10th 2019 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 222 - Jacob Kleyn

jacob kleyn, MB – 1

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 222 – Jacob Kleyn
Jacob Kleyn has his studio in his house in Amsterdam-North. He was born in the Jordaan and knew at a young age that he wanted to get into art. This led to an adventurous life in which he did performances, set up his own circus and made many works of art, including paintings, many with a stylized man and woman figure.
I recently saw them at the UniverseTaal exhibition, a duo exhibition with works by Bernadette Beunk, at Breed Art Studios. And now I see them again, in his own house. He has prepared a large number of large and smaller paintings especially for my visit. On the wall hangs ‘On Our way, up !!’ from 2002, in which we see a male and female figure in a ray of light widening upwards. Various celestial bodies circle around the couple.

jacob kleyn, MB – 2

Subtle lines
Jacob Kleyn incorporates his experiences into his work. It is about sensitive matters that he personally experienced, but at the same time it represents experiences that everyone could in principle experience. Kleyn: “It’s about the human being and his relationships, sometimes about the lack of it or being far away from it.” With subtle lines he tries to get to the core. The paintings are often filled in with brown tones with ‘oil-based tanning ink’.

jacob kleyn, MB – 3

It all started with drawings he made as a toddler. “I was always drawing. I lived in the Jordaan. Artist, that was my destination, I already knew that then.” In Amsterdam people knew what to do with it. “You must go to Circus Elleboog”. Circus Elleboog was a children’s circus that has been around for 67 years (coincidentally as long as Jacob is old). He went on to perform throughout the country, at least three times a week, often in major theaters. Sometimes the circus also went to Germany.

jacob kleyn, MB – 4

After primary school, he went to IVKO, the Individual Secondary Art Education. “I got all kinds of art subjects. Every teacher, usually a woman, wanted to draw me in her direction. When I was 16 I had invented my own drawing techniques. People were surprised. I was able to exhibit, also with conceptual ceramics and next to that performances.” He then went to the Theaterschool, dance / choreography department. His head bubbled over with ideas for shows. He also continued to make drawings and paintings that he exhibited and that were even bought by the Centraal Museum in Utrecht.

jacob kleyn, MB – 5

Strange dances
After the Theaterschool – “I always had girls around me” – he asked the Shaffy Theater in Amsterdam and De Lantaren in Rotterdam if he could give performances with all those girls. “Please,” was the answer. “We did strange dances with weird experiments. Sometimes we projected performances that we had done in the open air on a screen. ” At the request of Fons Elders, the philosopher, Edam launched a Land Art Project in 1975 in Zeevang in which the four elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water were processed. There were sculptures and performances on the land itself and across the dike in the IJsselmeer. Well-known artists such as Krijn Giesen and Jan van Munster also participated. In a photo I see two girls in ‘Swan Lake’ – “One of those girls was called Zwaantje” – making graceful movements on floating air mattresses.

jacob kleyn, MB – 6

He had long been registered for a studio space, but the list of candidates was long and the offer limited. At the end of ’79 he heard that there was something in Almere. Was he interested? He said he wanted to give it a try. Almere was a new town on newly won land, so it was pioneering. He initially went alone, but after a reunion of Circus Elleboog, where he did a number of acts that he had previously performed as a child, he met Ruth Bouman. She played the saxophone, composed and made objects. And Jacob could play, dance and present pantomime. “Do you want to participate?” He asked her.
They started giving performances in the Corrosia Theater, among other things. Both had a circus background, which helped enormously. They started practicing at Circus Boltini. They didn’t always have money. The large painting ‘Last Supper’ (1980), which he shows first, bears witness to this. On the left we see a man in black lines bending towards a litter box with kibble and on the right a cat in yellow lines. “Sometimes there was only cat food in the refrigerator.”
In ‘82, he won an architecture competition about ‘unusual living’ in poor conditions. Big names participated, but Jacob won. “I was allowed to implement my plan. We drove old wagons and tractors to the De Fantasie site, on the Weerwater, between Almere harbor and Almere city. There we could build the house with theater. We started our own circus with the name ‘Abstract Circus’. I was the director of the circus and player. We had a mix of our own artists, animals: tigers, lions, panthers, my cat. I’m good with animals – and we did strange acts ourselves. In 1984 we played for a month in succession. It worked well. “

jacob kleyn, MB – 7

Back in Amsterdam
He stayed in the polder for ten years. In 1990 he was back in Amsterdam. He ended up in his current home. The second large painting that he shows is ‘Tears’ (1990). We see the outlines of a man in black lines. There are two yellow taps on the place of his eyes. “A photo of that work appeared in a magazine. A boy from Groningen came to visit me who was crazy about that painting. It touched him enormously.” He has sold many of the works that were created on the floor of his studio abroad, especially to Americans. But he tries to keep the most important works, also key works, himself.
He had exhibitions abroad, in Petersburg, Russia in 2001 and then to Sofia / Bulgaria, South Korea for his ceramics and to the Japan Triennial in Japan.

jacob kleyn, MB – 8

He shows a Madonna, a ‘Contemporary Madonna’ with the title ‘Sitting on the Garbage’ (1987). With a smaller work next to it, it forms a diptych. In the smaller painting you see water dripping from the ceiling into a bucket. “In 2007 I was in an ‘Artist-in-Residency’ in Almelo for a month. It was housed in an uninhabitable house. Everything was moldy. One guest artist after another left again, but there were a few diehards, including me. Even in difficult circumstances I had to keep up, I thought, I had experienced that before, in the circus. I made the Madonna in combination with the drop painting. You see big yellow and black spots at Madonna’s feet, that was the moisture and dirt of the Art-Residency that has been drawn into the canvas. ”

jacob kleyn, MB – 9

Male and female figures
He made his first stylized male and female figures in the eighties, in later years he made new variations on the theme. The figures are stilled, but at the same time there is tension between the people and movement. “That is the influence of dance from Theaterschool.” A whole series comes by. ‘Once in a Century’, ‘And Then there were Only’, ‘Phenomena’, ‘It’s a Long Way to Go’, ‘We Together, in Warsaw’. Sometimes the figures stand on a broken ice floe, sometimes the female figure is in black, like a shadow, on another there is only one figure that looks out into the distance, towards an iceberg, at the very back the blue sea and several times the figures are surrounded by spinning celestial bodies. And on other works there are a few sentences in gypsy language. “I taught myself this language. In the circus we felt like gypsies. ”

jacob kleyn, MB – 10

Star pickers
He is now working on the children’s show ‘Sterrenplukkers’ (Star Pickers) that he set up together with Leyla Azeri. “It is a pedagogically friendly program. All kinds of miracles happen. And there is a happy ending. The reactions to the performances so far were super. “
Looking back at his career, he says: “I have done what I have always wanted. I try to hold on to that, and especially its integrity. That keeps yourself going. I have had great success from time to time, but I have not pursued that. ”

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