Martine Van Leeuwen


“Give me the city streets, the urban grey,
Quays and canals that keep the water tamed,
The clouds that never look finer than when, framed
By attic windows, they go their windswept way.”

Mention nature, and some city folk get annoyed. Nature is old-fashioned and irrelevant in today’s age of Pleasure Islands and charter flights to Alanya. Especially if you tell them it’s your inspiration and starting point of research into art. Aren’t you then too focused on yourself? Your childhood memories of the sound of the sea, the wind in the mountains, the plants: aren’t they too personal? What does it mean today?

“An unhappy childhood is a writer’s gold mine.” Whoever said that, in my opinion it’s equally true of “A happy childhood”.

Why claim to be inspired by something other than art if your work at first glance gives no other association than experimenting with the effects of paint. Martine expressed that her experiences of nature growing up in the New Zealand countryside were extremely important. I saw the people around me looking speculative. But how it delighted me. Instantly I heard the lapping of the River Maas, I smelt the pungent rubber pontoons smouldering in the sun, the scent of green soap and sweat that wafted from Ronnie’s uniform as he brought me to school on the back of his bike, saw the dragon-teeth next to the Maas bridge, the river that reflected the sunlight so brightly it made your eyes water if you looked too long. That belongs to me, no one can take it away. Just as no one can take away Martine’s sea and mountains. What she and I do with our memories is our business.

Martine’s paintings are nature, not depictions of it. They come into existence like nature: seemingly steered by chance. It reminds me of the way John Cage approaches composition. He once explained his method in an interview, comparing it to picking up stones and shells, “Choosing one by one, when walking along the beach.” And why that one and not the other one? “Because both of us being there.”

Gouke Notebomer, 25.06.2004
Artist, Teacher

* Translation: Judith Wilkinson, from the poem De Dapperstraat, J.C. Bloem (1887 – 1966)