During the period that I painted this painting, 2010 – 2012, there was an aggressive debate going on about the necessity of art in the Netherlands. Being known as a quite liberal country with a vivid contemporary art scene, it came as a shock to people involved in culture and arts.
Right before I left for France, the museum I worked at, was in danger of closing down. Galleries were also closing because of the crisis. The budget for art in general, provided by the government, was cut drastically. The biggest problem was the way politicians talked about culture and art, as if it were all worthless, a left wing hobby as they called it. This shocked everyone who was interested in art. This kind of uneducated and uninformed point of view was used to appeal to the common man, so to say. I like the common man. Aren’t we all laypeople, until we know more about something? Working at Rijksmuseum Twenthe, I saw it as my job to inspire people to see art. By learning more about it, you see so much more. I once showed 17 year olds BC Koekkoek’s landscapes, and they couldn’t believe that those were painted, they thought they were photographs. I also showed them Sam Francis’s painting that was part of the show Abstract USA. It was white in the middle, had a zen feeling about it, with colorful splashes of paint like a frame around the blank space.
I like it when people don´t understand. I don´t encourage their ignorance, neither do I try to convince them of it. I like it when people find something, art, bad or ugly or overpriced. It´s useful when they tell me how they feel. Art is a very personal and emotional thing, and we are all entitled to our own emotional experiences, and we feel better when those are heard. I used to think Willem de Kooning´s art was just bad, until one year later I was completely obsessed with it. I like how art takes time to appreciate. It teaches us that first impressions can be deceiving. And that´s as true in life as it is in art.
There were also a few still lifes and a tulip vase in the museum. I taught visitors about the tulip crisis, in Holland, the first economic bubble to burst that was documented.
It’s this mix of fighting, striving, the beauty of still lifes, and my love for abstract painting that lead to this painting. Maybe you can see the confusion, someone wanting to speak up, the watch on the left, and the red sky. Tulpenwoede, the original Dutch title, consists of the words tulips and anger, rage. The words combined are best translated as tulip mania or tulip crisis.