The works of the multifaceted Dutch artist Gijs van Lith alter the expectations and the customary understanding that a bystander generally has of what a painting can or should be. Analyzing the genesis of his creative act, van Lith is extremely close to what were the fundamental characters of action painting, also known as gestural abstraction or abstract expressionism: a style of painting in which color is spontaneously dripped, launched or stained on canvas, rather than applied carefully. The resulting work emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as in American Abstract Expressionism and in Tachisme, a pictorial style of abstract art which began in France in the 1940s and 1950s – otherwise known as Informal Art – in which the painting is conceived exclusively in its being made of gestures and raw material.
Gijs van Lith’s artistic research is mainly focused on painting but his body of works also includes sculptures and installations. The creative process, the choice of materials and the pictorial strategy – understood as modus operandi – play a fundamental role and are initially positioned as essential substrates for each new creation. Van Lith considers the canvas on which a painting is made as important as the material with which he paints it; and aspects such as materiality, the originality of the act, the relationship between gestural time and timelessness of the work, and the luminosity granted to the physicality of the painting, unquestionably cover all his work. His painting in recent years has acquired a more sculptural dimension, which allows him to create, develop and manage his work in an increasingly dynamic and materially more fluid way. The relationship between process and finished work becomes an interactive dialogue in which there is neither front or back.
Indeed, this is why before his works there is often a suspension of judgment due to a domineering pictorial haze or as he calls it “beast mode”, creative practice in which the artist feels more like an animal guided by his instinct and intuition. Van Lith does not discriminate between conscious actions and possibilities, between luck and deliberate gestures. The result is energetic and dynamic works that exist in a perpetually open dialogue between the conscious and subconscious.
Text by Domenico de Chirico
Gijs van Lith, born in 1984, received his education at the art academy AKV St Joost in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NL). After earning his bachelor’s degree, he obtained his master’s degree at the same academy a few years later in 2013. The work of Gijs van Lith quickly caught the attention of the artistic world; the artist has been nominated for several prestigious prizes for young artists and in 2009 he won the Thieme Art Young Talent Award. Meanwhile, his work is also gaining international prominence and is being included in national and international private and corporate collections. He has previously exhibited in New York, London, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Van Lith was also invited for a recidency in Koln at Lesien Art Foundation and at the CCA Andratx in Mallorca. He exhibited a monumental installation during his solo-exhibition at the Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2018. And in 2020 Van Lith is featured in the duo exhibition ‘En dehors des murs du palais’ with artist Henk Visch in Het Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands.