About The Artist
Menno Winand Baars (born October 04, 1967, Utrecht) is one of the self-taught fine art painters to come out of The Netherlands. Throughout the years, his style has seriously evolved from avant-garde movement Cobra to New Expressionism and beyond, but there has been one subject that has remained a constant in his creative capture, the provocative and suggestive (and kind of hilarious) figures. In common his painting is very instinctive, wildly and unbridled. From start Mr. Baars was possessed with an urgency and authenticity that were to be the yardstick for his entire later career. He invented a signature gesture and spend his life refining it. A personal liberation from the shackles of social order.
It is impossible to pin mr. Baars down to a set of influences. Indeed, it would be hard to name any central, or often marginal, force in Dutch painting which has not affected his imaginative process. Like Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) his early painting is a vehement, visceral identification with paint, making of it a living substance. As with Karel Appel (1921-2006), there is in Menno Baars's art a lofty ideality and purity, a love of contrasting primary colours with lots of bravery and rudeness. And the new work is, in the artist’s words a “declaration of love” for the paintings of Dutch born and American raised artist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997). To say however that he is the result of those three worlds is to belittle the originality and excitement.
Bird Garden, size 100x120cm, Menno Baars copyright 1993
When an artist changes his style, you can have a new look, a fresh look, and suddenly you can see things that you didn’t see before in the earlier work. Things many people could not see because of preconceptions. One can describe his early work by a thick application of paint, violent colors and vehement broad brush stroke combined with the physical properties of pastel. In those first paintings an utmostly lively structured, colourful surface evolves. It resembles a kind of skin that consists of various colours interfering with each other and creating new shades. People in relation to each other, increasingly abstracted, expressed in light, colours and shapes. They all tell tales of joy and melancholy, attraction and rejection, flippancy and eternity, chaos and orderliness, rationality and emotion. Obvious humour is the key element.
Girl With Yellow Arms, 160x180cm, copyright Menno Baars 2008
Well known in the Netherlands as one of the main cardiologists he seemed destined to have a respected but not transcendent art career. His involvement with deceptively childlike imagery attracted a flurry of attention, and he made a splash in New York in the first decade of this century. But later works were received more coolly as his attention apparently shifted away from painting to his medical work in the hospital. A sort of fallow period began and Baars saw his work go out of fashion. By 2013, when he stopped working at hospitals and started his own clinics, he experienced a new restless burst of creative activity in a more mature way, revisiting the complex imagery of his early painting. This new-found freedom brought him back to the public eye and tackles instantly the old cliché that Baars is only to be identified with funny creatures with happy smiles in vibrant colors. The playful, anything-goes spirit is gone in his latest canvases; Baars’s new work is rooted in a more classical artistic tradition, far from spontaneous. You wouldn’t expect Menno Baars to do that, but in fact he did it all the time. Baars: “You have to fight the conventions of the genre and the subject itself in order to make something new.” It led him quite unexpectedly into the realm of pure painting and into uncharted territory. It is no surprise that he was able to breathe new life into techniques in which he had reached heights of extraordinary technical virtuosity. The new painting is characterized by large-scale works with expressionistic mark-making and unrefined, even grotesque, figurative depiction. Now he depicts his subjects in an almost raw and brutish manner with highly textural and expressive brushwork in intense colors interspersed with watercolor-like pastel shades with dramatic smears of black.
Woman On A Mission and Nothing Can Stop Her, size 180x200cm, Menno Baars copyright 2017
The work of mr. Baars has been incorporated in the collections of many celebrities and royal families. Well-known is his "Understanding New York" (collection JFK Airport New York). As a performance artist he made a claim to fame by throwing paint on an airplane, painting whilst sailing at the Volvo Ocean Race and giving an hot air balloon the 'Baars-make-over’.