John Van Ness Artist's Statement
My paintings are studies in composition and color. I seek grace and flow of line, harmony and elegance of color, balance and complexity of composition. My style requires that these issues be solved simultaneously in a crisp, clear manner but, at the same time, having an overall lyric effect. This is where the primary challenge lies - to resolve all these issues with as much clarity and elegance as possible. These issues frequently conflict over and over again in creating a painting and my reward lies in finding solutions which work in a comprehensive and harmonious manner.
Many of my paintings explore the interplay between geometric and organic shapes. The organic lines give movement and flow to the painting while the geometric lines give structure and stability. Together, I find they provide an energy and excitement to a painting as the eye comprehends first one and then the other.
There is also a strong historical component in my work. The shadows of several artists lurk in my paintings. The strongest influence, running through many of my paintings, is that of Picasso, but other artists and styles of art are there as well. I have painted off and on all my life and studied painting in college. My work has varied from representational to quite abstract, but color has a prominent place in my painting, I share the love of color shown in the impressionists and expressionists paintings and in many abstract paintings. But it was while doing a detailed study of some of Cezanne's landscapes that composition and flow in a painting became so important in my own painting style. I liked Cezanne's dramatic emphasis on composition and began to incorporate a strong composition statement in my own painting. Then, at a show entitled "Matisse and Picasso" at the Kimball Art Museum, I saw "Pitcher, Bowl of Fruit and Leaves" by Picasso and this inspired another major change in my painting style. Now I began to develop a great respect and fascination for the uncompromising hard edged works done by artists including Kandinsky, Klee, Kupka, Frank Lloyd Wright, and others. This seemed to fit with my background in mathematics where an emphasis on simplicity and elegance is so strong. You can also see in some of my work an influence of the open airy feeling given in many Matisse paintings - I enjoy the sense of motion and presence and integration of outdoors and indoors in these works. Kupka's work has also inspired some my compositions. His later work has been seen to resemble the geometry of mathematical fractals - a subject of some of my early research in mathematics. I have also become interested in the firm bold statements in the folk art paintings of David Bates. Some of my most recent abstract works were partly inspired by some of the earlier works of Jackson Pollock with their emphasis on bright colors and bold composition.
I strive for a strong bold use of line, color and composition where the issues must be faced without equivocation. All this must be done while creating a picture that is pleasing to the eye and enticing to the mind. The challenge is enormous.