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"Victory of Painting"
Peter John Voormeij, "Victory of Painting," acrylic on canvas, 24” x 30”.
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Peter John Voormeij, "Broadway Boogie," acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”.
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"Homage to Mondrian"
Peter John Voormeij, "Homage to Mondrian," acrylic on canvas, 30” x 36”.
PETER JOHN VOORMEIJ, Through Dutch Eyes 2
Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver
Oct 23 to Nov 13, 2007
By Ann Rosenberg
At this time of year, jolts of colour are welcome, and the hues in Peter John Voormeij’s paintings, when viewed at a distance through the generous windows of the Elliott Louis Gallery, have an exhilarating effect. Moving in closer and examining the individual pieces and their titles, pondering the rationale behind the show, certain questions arise.
According to the short version of the artist’s biography, the titles of Voormeij’s pieces might be triggered by poems or political events. Titles lead him into paintings, then direct his colour choices and compositions. Several of the most successful works in the show (for example, You Have Chosen, Victory of Painting and New Values) appear to express that integrity and I single them out because these are technically and thematically in synch with the central thrust of Voormeij’s art, which is to offer his own visual proof that the Abstract Expressionism that has flourished in North America since 1945 is, at his hand, not only still alive and well but joyful.
In this solo show, the viewer is surrounded by art that appears particularly influenced by the rich impasto of Jean-Paul Riopelle, who had returned to Montreal after decades in Paris just a couple of years before Voormeij immigrated to that city from Holland. In the late 1960s Voormeij , under many influences, abandoned the Realism in favour of adopting more up-to-date non-objective, North American styles.
One of the important forerunners to the new school of purely abstract art was Voormeij’s countryman Piet Mondrian. In Through Dutch Eyes 2, Voormeij references Mondrian in “Broadway Boogie”, “Homage to Mondrian” and “Mondrian’s Utopia”. I doubt that the dour, reclusive Dutchman would have appreciated any of these tributes because they stray so far from the strict principles (and philosophy) on which his highly personal art was based. Voormeij’s 2007 works are omnivorously coloured, palette-knife-delivered concoctions that are completely over-the-top flamboyant — the opposite of the reductive palette, quiet surfaces and ordered formats of precedents offered by the canvases of the Dutch master, who listened to boogie-woogie as he painted but likely never danced.
Voormeij’s Counter Compositions also reference the series of ‘tilted’ (diamond-shaped) paintings that Mondrian created before his death in 1943. At least two of these are rendered in muddy, knife-applied square swatches of blue/grey/green, while others feature the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows that caught my eye before I entered the gallery. A look at Voormeij’s web site will reveal that he typically produces series of 48 members under the same title, so am guessing there that there are (or will be) more in this group from which to chose. While there are paintings shown on his website that are successful abstract works convincingly inspired by Willem de Kooning and Jack Shadbolt, I think Voormeij should just get on with producing the best, Expressionist, painterly paintings he can and leave Mondrian’s highly disciplined art to rest in peace.