Robert van de Graaf (1983, born in The Hague, The Netherlands) is interested in the connection between the mystic of this world, with all its elements (the sea, the sky, nature, fire, light and darkness), and the sense and the dimension of the spiritual world.
Van de Graaf draws inspiration from myths, mystical places or stories (both from history and present days) and the philosophy of life. His artworks accomplish his ongoing journey to seek meaning in life.
Van de Graaf is questioning human destiny and how we can move further and grow as human beings on a spiritual level. He wishes his artworks to provide ‘food’ for the soul for himself and its viewers. His artworks should be a (re)discovery for himself and the viewer and wishes to encourage deepening. This is his reaction on the superficiality of modern society and the lack of ‘soul food’ for younger generations.
Van de Graaf transforms the inspiration of its themes into symbolic modern interpretations while referring to paintings of the old masters as Rembrandt’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’ (1632) and El Greco’s ‘The Vision of Saint John’ (1608-1614). The paintings balance between figuration and abstraction and allow some freedom of interpretation to the viewer.
Van de Graaf has been professionally trained in painting and drawing from his 13th till his 18th by the Dutch artist, Erica Meyster (1949 - 2006), before his studies in Architecture at the Technical University in Delft (MSc 2009). His inspiration for his artworks continue to come from the same area of interest of his youth, he always wanted to be an artist.
Van de Graaf experiences the process of creating as inner battles, freedom and faith.
THE BIBLE AND THE SEA, VISIONS OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE, ST. JOHN AND THE STARS
In the series ‘The Bible and the Sea’ he tries to blend together two major influences in his life, passages of the Bible and the sea, translated into symbolic interpretations (his studio and house are next to the sea). In these paintings he is working towards a balance between figuration and abstraction.
Robert van de Graaf is both referring to themes of the old masters, as to give his own modern translation and interpretation of his historical subjects. With every painting there is a sort of story board with references to biblical passages and references to paintings of the Old Masters as Rembrandt’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’ (1632).
The series ‘Visions of St. John the Divine’ are inspired by passages of the Revelations from the Bible. In this series he tries to blend together his imagination and passages from the Revelations while keeping some freedom of interpretation for the viewer. Every painting is inspired by different passages of the Revelations.
While St. John was banned to the island Patmos (Greece) his spirit was touched by the Spirit of God to write down the Revelations. St. John dictated his visions to his pupil Prochoros who wrote down the visions. The pictures are seen through the eyes of Prochoros, who was the spectator of St. John and his visions.
Van de Graaf also interprets the Revelations as a comment on modern society and a warning towards the fragility of the earth and mankind.
During his gallery research trip to New York in 2017 he visited the ‘Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine’ in New York City (Amsterdam Avenue at 112th street). From that moment he decided to dedicate at least three series to the Revelations and St. John the Divine.
In the series ‘St. John’s Heavens and Stars’ Van de Graaf enlarges the situation of the Apostle St. John receiving his visions looking to the skies, the sea, the moonlight and the stars. The paintings reveal the information of the Heavens St. John is receiving in his visions. This is the source of inspiration for the 14 paintings of this series.
In these paintings he is working towards a bit more abstraction for this series while keeping the recognition of a nightscape at the seaside. The viewer is now looking directly through the eyes of St. John without an additional narrating element in the paintings (as in ‘Visions of St. John the Divine’).