The use of geometric shapes entered my work in about 1990. To get rid of figuration, because this was too personal, it was about myself, my life and about the shape of a face, for example, while the real shape of that face did not interest me at all.
The thing that has interested me tremendously during my whole life is color—the combinations of colors and all the subtle variations of colors that are to be seen. I keep color memories in my mind. Even in my own house, every day I am aware of new color combinations because of the ever-changing light. I also have a growing interest in the inner world of feelings, which could be expressed by color.
For many years I have worked especially with the non-definable, the so-called non-colors. In these vague, shimmering zones, a color is vulnerable, can be switched easily in its complementary by using a different neighboring color. My often very subtle colors need the strength of geometric shapes. The vibration of my colors would diminish and be unnoticed if my shapes were non-geometric. Then the shape would take the attention away from the color. So, the ruler is my instrument. I like the clarity of geometric shapes. The strength. The order. These forms are universal, not personal. Handmade shapes, which show personal handwriting, are often more sentimental, are more chaotic, are more shapeless indeed. All this with regard to my own work, of course. For me it is in the color that I want to be personal.
Though I use no organic forms, I want my work to be an organic unity. It must “breathe.” Like my own lungs and stomach moving backwards and forwards, so in my paintings and drawings the areas move optically to and fro. The rhythm is important. In this way geometric forms relate to more abstract things like music.
The content of my work is to create a strong image of beauty, so it is about rhythm, balance, composition of color and of light and darkness. Like a musical composition. The finished work is connected to me the way my dreams are: I myself can feel what it is about, to which part of my soul it relates, I recognize the themes my inner self is working on. The title is the reference to that content. But no more than that. Like a dream, it is personal. I like others to create their own relations to my work.
Painters I regard as my masters for more than twenty years: Rembrandt, Matisse and Rothko. Great works of great figurative painters are regarded by me as abstract works, the makers knew how to handle visual elements. Works I would be very pleased with to get as a birthday present: paintings by these masters, and by Léger, Malevich, Kandinsky, and Sonia Delaunay, for example. —Margreeth Oosterhof, 2005)
Now, in 2012, some of my work has figurative elements, which very slowly re-entered my work. Sometimes there are still straight lines in my paintings, sometimes not at all. I think that the main reason for this change is the fact that when you leave out such elements—which is done in geometric abstract art—the work you make is more easily connected to the work of other geometric abstract artists, or, to put it less kindly, the work of others could be your work—at least you recognize the similarity, you have been doing the same once, but then repainted it or no longer wanted to pursue that road. I decided I want my work to be very personal and very individual, at least in its visual appearance.
I think my choice for geometric abstract painting was partly a choice to focus on color—in part to afford myself this special learning process by leaving out other visual elements, and in part because I wanted to express what was within me rather than around me. Nowadays, I am once again interested in a dress, a flower, and I want these things to be visible again in my paintings. But in the way I compose my work, you can still see my geometric way of thinking when creating order.
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email Margreeth Oosterhof