Everything about Dutch painter Gerard van der Oetelaar's
work is strong; and it's the kind of strength that can
cut across all forms of visual distraction, catch the eye
and keep it locked for a long time.

This strength lies in the sharp play of light and shadow that is dominant in each of his abstract oil paintings, and is further accentuated by his bold and overwhelming strokes
and use of vibrant colours.

The secret behind all this display of strength and power
is his highly creative and clever use of different
three-dimensional texture.

"I use a lot of recycled material like cotton, fabric and
corrugated boards," said Oetelaar in Malacca recently.

HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE: The message or theme of Oetelaar`s
work is highly subjective, leaving the viewer to make his own conclusions. His choice to omit titles for his paintings further
allows the viewer freedom to interpret the work as he sees fit.

"Through years of experimenting, I found that such material
when incorporated into paintings bring out effects
and contrasts that are not found in
two-dimensional flat paintings."

The materials are blended so well that the image and
texture are in perfect harmony with one another and
neither one nor the other distracts the viewer.

He uses the recycled materials to form irregular contours
and gradients and paints over them using strong strokes.

"My main colours are yellow and white which are able
to catch light well," he said.

His extensive use of yellow brings to mind a certain other
Dutch artist who was obsessed with this same colour -
Vincent van Gogh. There is also a small semblance of
Van Gogh's usage of yellow-white-blue in Starry,
Starry Night in most of Oetalaar's paintings,
where the central image is in bright yellow and
white while the surrounding is in evening sky blue.


Textures in perfect harmony

By Vanitha Nadaraj


Oetelaar finds that purely incidental.

"In fact, I do not follow any particular artist or style.
I just do what I find suits me best and what helps
me to express myself well," he said.

Oetelaar is a self-taught artist who experimented a
lot before he felt that he had finally found his own style.
Now 52, he was formerly a bookkeeper who
painted mainly realist portraits in oils and
charcoal during his spare time.
He gradually gravitated towards abstract paintings
and has held numerous exhibitions in Europe.
His first Asian exhibition was in Jakarta in 1996.

The message or theme of his work is highly subjective,
leaving the viewer to make his own conclusions.
His choice to omit titles for his paintings further allows
the viewer freedom to interpret the work as he sees fit.

"Why should I determine the thought process of another
person when creativity should be interpreted creatively?"
he reasoned.

Personal interpretation is so easy because each of his work
is a visually loquacious piece - one that says a lot.
He does, at times, go into symbolism by using
motives like fish and birds to bring in more
structured meaning to his images.

His friend, Art Gallery Perzim-UiTM Melaka co-ordinator
Abdul Rashid Md Ali, feels that Oetelaar uses very
basic shapes to create highly abstract images.
"This makes his work abstract without being arrogant,"
said Abdul Rashid.

Oetelaar was in Malacca recently to make arrangements
for his exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary
of the arrival of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in Asia.
A month-long exhibition, which will be opened by the Dutch ambassador to Malaysia, J. von Muhlen on March 2,
will be held at the Art Gallery Perzim-UiTM Melaka.