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Ati Lichtveld

De reis ondernomen             (scroll down for the english version)

Zolang zij zich kan herinneren is Ati Lichtveld bezig met beelden en verbeelden.
Licht, lucht en water spelen daarbij een cruciale rol.
De horizontal Ijjnen van het Noord-Hollandse polderland en de verticale, het omhoog kjjken van haar jeugd, vermengen zich op den duur in haar schilderijen.
Er zijn kruisverbindingen en herinneringsbeelden in nieuwe gestalten op papier en linnen gelegd. Zjj hebben lijnen met de dagelijkse werkelijkheid van het leven op het land en met het geloof in de aarde en wat daar boven aan licht en weerkaatsing van water is; een ark vol beelden bjj wijze van spreken, de zee altijd aanwezig, niet steeds direct zichtbaar maar in reflecties die een bijzondere waarde aan haar kleuren verlenen.

Daar, in die Noord-Hollandse jeugdjaren, is de opmaat aan te wijzen naar haar kunstenaarschap, naar wat zij later zal gaan verbeelden: een reis in fasen, met stiltes en rumoer. Het begint ergens, alsof nog niet duidelijk is waar het naar toe gaat. Gevoel voor architectuur speelt een ordenende rol; een stramien als een blauwdruk waarin het ritme van de verbeelding zijn loop neemt.
De Europese schilderkunst heeft een bevruchtende verhouding met de bouwkunst. Zij werkt vaak als een venster. De grote Italiaan Piero della
Francesca liet al in de 15de eeuw een helder licht schjjnen aan de muren door middel van fresco’s. Alsof hij een denkbeeldig raam dp een verder verschiet opende. Van binnen naar buiten toe via de opgeroepen beelden, in een kader dat wij nu als lijst opvatten.

Zo gaat het ook in de schilderijen van Ati Lichtveld. In de opbouw is een sterke verwantschap te zien met bouwkunst. Dat manifesteerde zich in de jaren zeventig toen zij naast haar opleiding aan de Vrije Academie in Den Haag in een kring van jonge architecten op de TH in Delft kwam te verkeren. Een werk- en leefomgeving die haar opieiding verrassende handreikingen heeft geboden.
Sporen hiervan zijn al in haar eerste werkstukken rond 1977 duidelijk aanwezig.

Ati Lichtveld gaat al vroeg weg uit haar geboortestreek. Maar de herinneringen aan het land van haar jeugd, tussen Akersloot en Alkmaar, draagt ze in sterke beelden met zich mee. Ze weet wat een dijk is, hoe de polder erbjj kan liggen, met de rode hoeden van de boerderijen. [‘Rode hoeden 1’] Met licht, naderend vanuit zee, het typische hemelblauw, messcherp de voren op het land en de streep van de dijk. Universele beelden die ze later naar haar hand zal zetten. De boerderij en de strengheid van de seizoenen. Men kan niet altijd precies weten vanwaar de eerste impulsen komen die leiden naar een zelfstandig kunstenaarschap. In haar geval is het zeker dat land, lucht en licht van haar jeugd en de kringloop van feesten en seizoenen van invloed zijn geweest op haar latere werk.

Halverwege de jaren tachtig vestigt zij zich in Amsterdarh. In het voormalige Wilhelmina Gasthuis betrekt zij een ruim atelier en bouwt daar een heel persoonlijke leefwereld op. Muziek is essentieel voor haar, tussen Mahler en Theodorakis, en een breed scala van jazz, met als belangrijksten Thelonius Monk en John Coltrane.

In dit atelier komt zij eerst tot haar eigenlijke werk. De verandering van woon- en werkomgeving, met een eigen atelier van waaruit allerlei maatschappelijke en culturele lijnen lopen, is van grote invloed geweest op haar verdere ontplooiing. Daarnaast is haar atelier, temidden van andere ateliers, een vruchtbaar platform in sociaal en cultureel opzicht. Het is een plek geworden waar regelmatig college’s te gast zijn, musici en dichters elkaar ontmoeten en waar sessies worden gehouden om naar elkaar te luisteren.

Frans Duister

——– ENGLISH ——-

On the Journey Embarked

For as long as she can remember, Ati Lichtveld’s has been a life of images and imagination, with light, air and water always playing a crucial role. In time, the horizontal lines of the land claimed from the sea, the polder of North Holland, and the vertical – looking up from her youth – came together in her painting. In new form, cross connections interweave and images from memory are laid onto paper and canvas. They bear lines to the daily realities of life on the land, to the belief in the earth and what is above the earth, the light and reflections from the water:an ark filled with images, as it were. The sea is always a presence, if not immediately visible, then always in the reflections that lend an exceptional value to her colours.

There, in those youthful years in the North-Holland landscape, we find a prelude to her life as an artist, to what she would later imagine, find images for: a journey in phases, with silent spaces and with tumult. It begins somewhere, as though uncertain where it will go. A sense of architecture lends an organizing hand,a pattern like a blueprint in which the rhythm of the imagination finds its pace.

The relationship between European painting and architecture is a fertile one. Architecture often works as a window. As early as the 15th century, the great Italian Piero della Francesca, used frescoes to make a clear light shine on the wall, as though he were opening an imaginary window onto a distant prospect, from inside to outside by way of the images they evoke, enclosed in what we now perceive as a frame. So too do Ati Lichtveld’s paintings. In their structure is a strong relationship with architecture. It manifested itself as early as the 1970s, when, while studying at the Vrije Academie in the Hague, she kept the company of a group of young architects from the Technical University in Delft. This was a working and living environment that brought a surprising helping hand to her studies. There are clear traces of this, for example, in the work she completed around1977.

” Architecture interested me a great deal. There are many architectural elements to be found in my work. As an extension of that, I was very moved by Malevich and Mondrian. They show something that is very strong. ”
” I was attracted to the abstract, more than to the figurative. For that reason I began an investigation into pure form. The results were works full of geometric forms and reductions to simplified elements. In particular, I was especially attracted to the relationship between inside and outside, and thus to windows and doors, portals and passages. ”

Artificial objects

Ati Lichtveld was quick to move away from the countryside where she was born. But in the form of strong visual images, she still carries the memories of the land of her youth, between the towns of Akersloot and Alkmaar. She knows what a dyke is, how the reclaimed polder can spread out before you, with the `Rode hoeden’ or Red Hats of the farm roofs. She knows the light approaching from the sea, that characteristic sky blue, razor sharp furrows in the land and the stripe of the dyke. These are universally recognized images that she would later set to her own hand – the farm and the certainty of the seasons. One cannot always know just where the first impulses lie that lead to a life as an independent artist. In her case, certainly that land, the air and light of her youth, with their cycles of celebration and season have had considerable influence on her recent work.

In the mid – 1980s, Ati Lichtveld moved to Amsterdam. She took on a spacious studio in the former Wilhelmina Gasthuis complex and there created her own very personal lifestyle. Music was essential, between Mahler and Theodorakis, with a wide range of jazz, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane among the most important. In this studio, she came to her true work. The change of living and working environment, with a studio to herself from which run all sorts of social and cultural lines, has been an important factor in her further development. In her early years here, she was researching the visual and expressive potentials of contemporary materials, of plastics, which she stretched into large surfaces in order to subsequentiy evoke fields of tension with small interventions. These rhythmically grouped objects are an expression of her fascination with Africa.

” I began with monumental constructions, with very little colour, sooner deep black and brown. They were smooth objects of contemporary plastic fabrics, with tattoos in the surface, as though in African skin, or like what you see on African masks. ”

A layered world

The need to begin drawing and painting again grew stronger. Colour was waiting for her. Such things announce themselves in the small things.

” At a certain point I made a few paintings. They were about Nelson Mandela, who was then in prison. It was an ode to him. That was in fact the transition to starting to paint again. ”
In the first instance, these were constructivist canvases, with rather severe lines, large planes and structures that suggest space. These canvases were the overture for a series in which the sea serves as a model and which she groups together under the title ‘Iconography of the Sea’. In these new works (1987 – 1991), made with mixed media on paper, a layered world emerges. On the one hand, they consist of constructivist, geometric and abstract elements and on the other there are sometimes cautious beings that have no recognizable features, but that play as ‘personae’ in the composition. These compositions look as though they might be the fantastic study drawings of a theatre director whose performances are known for the prevalence of constructivism, but at the same time, they demand our attention to all kinds of forms and elements whose colour and contrast effects imply a great sense of space.

” Since I was a child, I was always surrounded by water. For me, water means freedom, the chance to travel. ”

The sea as a connection

As an awakening colourist, she intuitively tested the great sensory values of colour. In her ‘Iconography of the Sea’ series, the sea is not literally present, and certainly not in its familiar form from historic paintings. In the mixed media of paint, ink and pastel, she evokes associations of landscapes and interiors that weave outside and inside. From certain points of view, the eye can get lost inside the space, while the sea, its presence somewhere, penetrates the atmosphere of the compositions with reflections of light. Inside and outside are reversible, and that is what makes such a ‘sea’ composition so intriguing. These ‘images’ free the sea from the usual Romantic notions. They are sooner ‘icons’, in the way that icons are perceived in orthodox religion. As a window to that which is without time.

” I travel a lot in Greece, especially on Crete. The story of lcarus fascinates me. Or the songs and poems from the ‘Canto General’ by Pablo Neruda, set to the music of Theodorakis, but also the music of Markevich and the poetry of Kafavis and Sefari. ”
The sea and travelling – two concepts that have outspoken significance for Ati Lichtveld, and which again and again encourage her to step forth, a recurring invitation and challenge. To return again is a personal form of leaving, and once returned, leave again. For her, Crete, Icarus and Daedalus form an unusual union of reflection and imagination, and her works on paper bear witness to this. The works referred to here date from between 1992 and 1996. Once again, different angles of view can be perceived, as can different sources of orientation and different places of inspiration. The poetry of Kafavis may be at their root but so too are authentic Greek folk music and mythological metaphor.
The sea is the great connector. In the same way that Daedalus and his son Icarus sought to escape gravity by trying on wings of wax, so too could the work of Ati Lichtveld liberate her from the compulsions of a consumer society. For her, the theme of Icarus symbolizes the investigations and the searching of mankind.

” Daedalus instructed his son: ‘Keep to the middle, for if you fly too low, then the waves wilt make the feathers heavy. lf you fly too high, then they will be singed by the glow of the sun!’ ”
In ‘Monument for My Father’, this ambiguity, as though we were looking out a window at a vanishing world while simultaneously creating a balance between inside and outside, is meditatively crystallized into a fixed moment.

In her travels, she finds what she is not looking for. One example of this was in an ‘encounter’ that led to a series of works on canvas, begun in 1992 with her series on the theme of ‘Crossconnection’.

” I came to this ‘Crossconnection’ after a trip through the south of Spain. The pilgrim routes were lined with countless depictions of the stations of the cross, some of coloured and gilded plaster, but all deeply engraved with suffering and with the mysterious Veronica playing a part. Veronica’s apocryphal tale is that she wiped the perspiration from the face of Jesus with a cloth, and the features of the condemned remained imprinted in the cloth. I paint Veronica back into the story, but l do it by painting her ’portrait’ in a virtually abstract – expressionist way. ”
There is a similar visual approach to a religious subject in the large glass windows that Ati Lichtveld designed for the Ludgerus Church in Dronten. These windows belong within the idiom of her work where the specific selection of colours and composition are concerned. Whoever sees them will not be amazed that she was the artist chosen for this commission for monumental, coloured windows for a church (1997 – 1998). The theme she used for this transparent and symbolic work is her own interpretation of the story of the ‘The Men of Emmaus’.

Filled with wonder

The world of ‘intuition’, of her sense of the deeper meanings of being, has never left Ati Lichtveld, either in terms of her own life or where it concerns the history of mankind. It marks the way she thinks and works. Her upbringing, rich in symbols, the mystique of how she experienced them, alongside the mythical attractive power of the classics; these are fascinations which she cannot do without. And they feed her spirit. She uses symbols of her own to express emotions, intuition, instincts, but they are also bound to her own time. As a sign on the wall, Kuwait burns in her ‘The burned earth’, or ‘The Letter’ from France; personal works on paper. These are personal works on paper. Wherever she stays, either literally or in her thoughts, the earth is hers, a domain from whence she sets a summary of identifying characteristics on paper.

Evolving from this approach, with the new millennium came new works on paper, covering such themes as ‘Sea Portraits’ and ‘The Bridge’, works on canvas, iincluding the ‘Wings’ series in which Icarus makes a return, and ‘Fires of August’. Fernando Pesoa and the poet Cesare Pavese are looking over her shoulder.

” In my work during the last few years, the visual investigation into the content of myths is an ongoing process, a motion that is reinforced by the possibilities of mixed media and techniques. Ink oils and acrylics are materials that, applied layer over layer, give insight and a view to beyond – inside and outside – transparency and depth at the sametime. “For the occasion of her solo exhibition at the Vromans gallery in Amsterdam in the autumn of 2004, Ati Lichtveld can be heralded as a painter who, with her continuing series of paintings referring to the Odyssey and Icarus, creates an unbroken connection and relationship with the sea, through windows that reveal a deeper world, delicately drenched through with the mystery of life, or filled with wonder, as is clear in her ‘Ode to Mark Rothko’, as it vibrates with light.

Frans Duister
September 1st, 2004