Koen van den Broek seeks to redefine landscape through his minimalist paintings that capture the bleak yet beautiful topography found in the fundamental constructions of our contemporary land and cityscapes.
He zooms in and searched for the abstract quality of geometric shadow structures created by commonplace objects like a gas station pumps, curb sides, or even stationary tractor trailers. These are the objects that we pass by on a daily basis and pay no attention to. Koen van den Broek has decided, through his work, to call attention to them.
By painting these new vantage points of cityscapes or rural scenes, he gives value to the things in this world that we quite literally walk all over. He turns the cliché of “taking the time to look up” on its head by turning his gaze, and subsequently the attention of the viewer, downward towards the concrete.
The severity of the black he uses to render these complex shadows gives them a structural integrity; they become the figurative subject of his work. Rather than rendering the objects themselves, he disarticulates them from their shadows, finding a new and abstract means of discussing the concrete landscape society occupies.
If he chooses to include a person, he portrays them much the same: through stark contrasts of light and dark—as mere, non-distinct shadows melting into the streets they traverse.
His purely simplistic neutral color pallet is accented by the selective use of generally primary color creates an abrupt statement about the landscape of our cities and homes. These selected colors, though abrasively primary, are considerably nonthreatening because they are familiar to any viewer.
This quietude is emphasized as well through the aforementioned stark shadows, in that they only way that these shadows could be so crisp would be due to an implied cloudless and particularly bright day. Because in many of his paintings the actual landscape is spared, being that the line of sight begins below the horizon line, the viewer is enticed to recall the exact street corner or gas station from their own memory, filling in the horizon line with their own edifices.
If the horizon is included, minimal information is given, still allowing for the viewer to superimpose their memories of specific places into the open skyline or exit signs with the name of their hometown on the side of the painted road.
This idea of overlaying recollections on his paintings is perpetuated through the emphasized imperfections in his work. There is always s crack in the sidewalk, or a scuff in the paint that delineates his objects from the masses of other just like it, making it paradoxically specific in its intrinsic universality, much like the towns and cities we live in. There is a blunt sobriety in the way that he approaches his minimalist compositions, yet he still maintains an air of bright quirkiness and subtle intrigue.
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