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Erik van der Grijn’s Cutting Edge New Abstract

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, 1999

By Jan Verhoeven

To a collector, Erik van der Grijn is an original painter, who distinguishes himself from other abstract painters by an interesting combination of style, thinking and technique. This was already shown when Erik van der Grijn painted his Hard Edge works in the early sixties with the precision of the geometric abstract painters and with his own ideas of the balance of black and white elements and the visually self-correcting imbalance of the main elements of the picture. In a collection of geometric abstract paintings this is a unique addition to generally known examples of this style. He later developed this into his version of Hard Edge Realism for which he became famous in the years he worked in Ireland.

When Erik van der Grijn started to work in more abstract-expressionist way, he again used another technique and another philosophy to make his paintings. Van der Grijn will always be an intellectual painter, so his work may look gestural, but it is never gestural in the way of the New York School. His brushstroke is well considered, with the precision and care of a medieval painter. Also the emotions, which were kept out of the paintings so well during the Hard Edge Period, came back in, but not in a general way. Many of his paintings are made because of world moving events, like the ecological fallout of Chernobyl, or the dramatic situation in Sarajevo during the war in former Yugoslavia.

Van der Grijn chooses a philosophic title as a common denominator for series of paintings, during a period of several years. Starting with Packed Cross series, his motto is My Temple, My Prison. Under his umbrella concept, he treats very different subjects like fear, in his first large New York painting, The F-Line and other demons; killing and hope in his three Sarajevo paintings; despair in a painting which got the title of the main theme, My Temple, My Prison, and in which the underlying vertical strokes define the columns of the entrance of the temple, or at the same time the bars of the prison. But where Erik van der Grijn really has the edge on other abstract painters, is the clear concept with a clear structure, leading to a convincing composition. If you just dare to look.