Persona February, 3rd 2022 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 351 - Jan van de Pavert

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 351 – Jan van de Pavert
The exhibition ‘Het Volk’ (The People) was recently shown in Hilton Art Lab in Rotterdam. The Paris Commune of 1871, 150 years ago, was commemorated with works by Jan van de Pavert, Herman Lamers and Heleen Deurloo.
I saw a red llama in circles of neon light, two penguins escorting an orb of brightly colored letters, a red revolution dress, a communard and – in the center of the wall – and most conspicuously – a revolutionary warrior in a Phrygian cap. Left and right were the texts ‘Het Volk’ and ‘In Dubio’ (in doubt).

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Lady with Phrygian Cap
The lady with the Phrygian cap adorned the French stamps, including those of 1.5 and 15 francs, Jan van de Pavert tells me when I visit him in his studio in an art complex on the Nesserdijk. I do remember those stamps. And the famous painting ‘La liberté guidant le peuple’ by Eugène Delacroix. It depicts freedom as Marianne, the national symbol of France, who with that cap leads the revolutionaries in the revolution of 1830. Van de Pavert thought it important to do something with 150 years of the Paris Commune. “The hat was worn in 1870/’71 and earlier, in 1830 and during the French Revolution in 1789.”

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Many people no longer know what it is: the Paris Commune. Van de Pavert: “It has been forgotten, out of the collective memory. The French channel TV5 has paid attention to it and so has the IISH, the International Institute of Social History. For the rest, little or no attention was paid to it. It may be the time with relatively right-wing governments in the Netherlands and France where ideas and ideology play a subordinate role.”

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The Paris uprising
The commune started when citizens of Paris in 1871 no longer accepted the government and decided to form their own administration, he explains. “The French guard refused to hand over weapons to the French state and sided with the insurrection. The administration of the commune was democratically elected and aimed at reviving economic traffic; the middle classes were forgiven their debts, there was a lot of active participation by women, their own guard was set up and barricades were erected to defend themselves against the national army. After a few months, the commune was overrun. When the National Army recaptured Paris from the commune that same year, it shot over 10,000, possibly 15,000 civilians, almost all of them without trial. Thousands of other civilians were exiled (but later pardoned).”

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Social history
Social history is an important theme in Jan van de Pavert’s work. In various paintings and watercolors with large dimensions, he tells stories like the Mexican muralists did, such as Diego Rivera. Lifelike group portraits with the theme of freedom, newcomers, feminists, historical figures interspersed with contemporary figures, jazz heroes (James Mtume, Archie Shepp) and inmates in a prison with staff and supervisors. But also nature.
When he started with those lifelike group figurations, twenty years ago, he entered a terra incognita, an unknown area. “Artists artists were not concerned with these kinds of representations. You did have the photographic work of Canadian Jeff Wall. And you had the advertising world, for example the Postbank had the ’15 million people’ campaign, but that was advertising. It took me a while to learn how to deal with this. I could connect with the history of painting: representations of Delacroix and Courbet and the work of the Mexican muralists.”

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The Winged Angel
In front of me hangs ‘Hedera’ a tree that is embraced by upwards reaching ivy plants (green hedera). He previously made ‘De Plas’ (The pond) with lush vegetation around a small pond. We walk to the back, past the large scaffolding, and look at the work ‘The Winged Angel’ (De gevleugelde engel) that he made for the penitentiary in Alphen aan de Rijn. The final version is now hanging in the covered courtyard of the prison.
I see prisoners, almost all with averted faces, between them the staff including the director. The background consists of tattoos of the prisoners: a winged woman, a crucifix, a ‘tribal’ (tattoo with stylized lines), and many names: of lovers and children and sometimes deceased parents. The work is 2.50 meters high and 7.20 meters long. Van de Pavert was commissioned after he had been chosen from several artists and was allowed to submit a proposal for a work for the prison.

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History piece
He can call this a key work. This title may be even more appropriate for another work: ‘Freedom’, a large painting with figures related to the liberation of the sixties. You see dozens of people in a green environment, but also the painter Delacroix and in the background flats of the Bijlmermeer. “Mark Kremer, curator of the De Appel art center in Amsterdam, wanted a work for an exhibition that would fit on the six-meter high wall. I couldn’t come up with a small work, it eventually became about five meters high. That was the beginning of the large format work. Another group portrait, ‘History Piece’ (Historiestuk), features Iraqi refugees of Christian background holding a book, two lesbian women, a kindergarten class, and a young tourist (see image 2).

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Architectural work
Incidentally, Van de Pavert started with architectural work just after he graduated. An example of this can be seen in the Hague Sculpture Route, in which he connected two Hague ministry towers (Internal Affairs and Justice) back to back. “I wanted attention for ‘modern modernism’. There was a lot of attention for modern architecture from before the Second World War, but not for architecture from a few decades ago. You used to see black and white photos of ancient and modern Italy above the ticket counters in stations in Italy.”
Several of his architectural works can be seen on his site. “The works I made came back to me after an exhibition. I found it difficult to throw those works away, but I couldn’t store them anymore. As an alternative, I started working with film to show those architectural constructions. I created a space with grid models on the computer and made fictional wall paintings on them – so those wall paintings were not real, but worked out as a small watercolor and then introduced into the computer. It was then like seeing a building inside with huge murals. That was the beginning of large-format watercolors.”

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It’s going to start again, but when?
Jan van de Pavert considers himself an artist from the second year of the Art Academy St. Joost in Breda, in 1981, in the sense that, in retrospect, he still counts the work as part of his oeuvre from that time on. He continued his education at Ateliers ’63 in Haarlem.
As an artist you do a lot of things on your own, but to realize it all you need more people, he concludes. “That is sometimes difficult. Although I have had little trouble with corona, you can see that many exhibitions have been postponed. You don’t know when it will happen again. At some point it will open again, but then everyone will need all the time for their own projects and it will be more difficult to organize the helping hands together.”

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A book about the work of Jan van de Pavert will be published shortly.
1) 1871, Paris Commune, Hilton Art Lab, 2) Historical painting, watercolor, pencil, 2001. 116 cm long, coll. Paul Andriesse, 3) Freedom – The pond, acrylic on canvas, 2015. 240 x 210 cm, 4) Freedom – Three women, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 210 cm, 5) Freedom II – James Mtume and Archie Shepp, oil on canvas, 2016 – 2017. 256 x 128 cm, 6) The Newcomers, oil on lacquer on panel, 2019. 294.5 x 300 cm, 7) detail of The Newcomers, 8) The winged angel, watercolor and pencil, 2020 – 2021. 50 x 124 cm, 9) detail The winged angel, 10) Jan van de Pavert

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