This is part 3 of 6 posts about selected artists currently on show at the Threadneedle Prize for Painting & Sculpture at the Mall Galleries. The exhibition is on until the 12th October and is open daily, from 10am – 5pm.
Marcelle Hanselaar, Child Soldiers 3, Oil on canvas, 100 x 82 cm
A Closer Look at Child Soldiers 3, by Marcelle Hanselaar
Two figures standing just in front of us, look out into the distance; one with a baseball cap on back to front, no top, jeans hanging low; the other in full tribal attire that could just as easily be from 100 years ago as he could be from today. Silent and stony faced, they look out to the distance with their comrades, armed with sticks, to an ambiguous yet unsettling scene . A man can be seen throwing his hands in the air as if surrendering, a huge flag dancing in the air before him. Is the derelict looking building beside being taken over? There are many questions to ask about the narrative of this painting. It feels dreamlike – the artist has disregarded superfluous information in order to only show what is important to the tale. There is so much character in these young men despite the fact that you cannot read their faces. The difference in attire between the 2 main figures is emphasising the timeless and never ending struggles of young men, fighting for their territory. A beautiful and powerful narrative painting by dutch painter Marcelle Hanselaar – I asked her to tell us more about this particular piece.
Lisa: What inspired your painting ‘Child Soldiers 3’?
Marcelle: Head of a Negro is a tiny, 27×21 cm, gem of a painting by Govert Flinck, one of my favorite finds in Barcelona. For me it ticks all the boxes of what painting really is about. Nothing really happens, and yet you want to crawl inside it to discover its secrets. The subject is a portrait of a black man. He is well dressed, obviously a man of standing, wearing the uniform of the civic militia guards. The painting is beautifully executed, too fine for a mere sketch and yet it is a portrait of the back of his head. You would think that if this man commissioned his own portrait it would be of his face, to show his character and standing. The fact that he is looking away from the viewer makes it actually such an intriguing portrait. His looking away could mean many things but for me it suggests a sense of not belonging because although he looks like other 17C soldiers he is not like them. Because he is black.
About a year ago I found myself in a bit of an impasse with my painting. Having reached the end of the line within a certain subject matter is something all artists struggle with, the what next, what now kind of bind.
This was the time of the Arab spring with its wave of demonstrations, protests and civil wars, a movement which strongly affected me. Civil war, in which ordinary people are forced to act like soldiers, creates a kind of confrontation, morally and socially which most of us fear. Facing up to that creates a loss of innocence.
Chaos, civil war and innocence became the theme of a series of six prints, Loss of innocence, followed by several paintings after Govert Flinck’s Head of a Negro.
One day, I took an unfinished painting, slapped cadmium red over the image and loosely drew a head of a black man over it. Realizing that the vulnerability of the neck I had drawn made him look like a boy I gave him a helmet like Mickey Mouse hat. The image of Child soldier was born.
Lisa: Could you explain your use of colour in the painting – in particular the huge swathes of red over the largest figure in the composition?
Marcelle: My choice of colour is as my mood takes me. The subject is raw, fierce, harsh and the red was just the right colour to set the tone.
In painting everything has to click, colour, the texture of the paint and the weave of the canvas, the choice of ground. I painted this picture over an older one and wanted to erase the underlying picture, cadmium red is such a wonderful colour and that set of the whole feel of the painting.The previous two Child soldier paintings started in the same way, from a loose overpainting in cadmium over another painting of mine.
Lisa: How important is colour in your work?
Marcelle: Naturally painting is colour but it needs to be balanced by tone in order to give the picture depth and mood.
Lisa: What brands of paint do you use? What are your favourite art materials?
Marcelle: Old Holland, a good pigment is everything.
Lisa: What processes do you go through before you start painting a picture?
Marcelle: Its not really a process, more an ambling in your body, in your mind, a feel, a smell till you catch the scent of the subject (love the smell of oil paint too) and follow it down its lair.
Lisa: Where can we see more of your work (online or in the flesh)?
Marcelle: My website is www.marcellehanselaar.com
My next show will be of new prints on the Child soldier subject at 18-21 October
Multiplied, with Julian Page Fine Art , Christie’s, South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD,
Visitors are invited to vote for their favourite paintings – if you think Marcelle Hanselaar’s ‘Child Soldiers 3’ should be awarded the £10,000 Visitor’s Choice Award remember to vote for work #53 when you pay a visit to the Threadneedle.
The Threadneedle Prize for Painting and Sculpture is open daily from 10am – 5pm from the 25th September – 12th October 2013. Admission Free.
The Threadneedle Prize for Painting & Sculpture 2013, at The Mall Galleries, The Mall (near Trafalgar Square), SW1 All images are copyright of the artist.