A Talk with Jan Maarten Voskuil

After a busy, event-filled June, we’re hitting the pause button to reflect on our recent exhibition featuring Jan Maarten Voskuil. The Netherlands-based artist gives thought provoking insight to his work process, his perspective, and much more.  Read on to hear what he shared.


You’ve worked on “The Alphabet of Silly Colors” for quite some time, Can you tell us a bit about how the concept came together?
The Alphabet of Silly colors starts 2011 and is a next step in playing with the idea of “pointlessness.”  A point for me is the same as a dot or a circle.  In preceding works I broke down the circle in equal parts to get a hybrid, spatial shape between a square and a circle. In “the Alphabet,” I widened the possibilities, aiming for a maximum number of hybrid shapes out of the four equal circle parts. There appeared to be 18 different shapes. Only after creating the shapes I realized that they looked like strange characters, a secret alphabet, almost. I also realized that our known alphabet consists of characters which are the same shape just flipped or turned.  For example a b, d and p are essentially all the same shape, just presented differently.

By rotating my characters, I could create almost 70 different characters. Behind each artwork, there are arrows which correspond with the hanging direction and its meaning. Most works carry 4 different characters this way, some only 2 and the square only one. This is enough to address each letter from our alphabet, a capital, the figures from 0-9 and some other signs to a shape.  

What are some ways people collect this series? We see one can select the letters of their name, spell out a sentimental word, or simply their initials. It seems as though the possibilities are near endless.

I would prefer if people could see the works free from the randomly addressed meaning of the letters. Please play with them in a purely visual way.  The hanging is as a visual poem.

To me, the space between the works is also an essential element of the work. There, the counter shapes are hybrids between circles and squares as well.

One could collect just one shape or a group of shapes. In the past, most of the shapes have been sold at once. While I would like to show it as a complete series, each work remains a unique painting.

How would you say you approach the balance between creativity and perfection in your sharply geometric artworks?

All my works are handmade. I hardly work with assistants. The working process generates problems and insights. The slowness of the process gives time for doubt and contemplation. For me, this is the creative process. I’m very much a do it yourself person. This also means that my craft is developing but never perfect. Perfection might be attractive as an aim, especially in Californian culture of finish fetish and body culture, and I am not indifferent to it, but it is also very scary. In the end it means loss of identity.


For information on Jan Maarten Voskuil and his works, please contact us. 

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