‘The compostion is what it’s all about. It transcends the image. Harmony in the work is important, you feel it when it’s right, you see that it isn’t possible in any other way’
Henk Helmantel (Westeremden, 1945) studied at the Minerva Academie in Groningen in the sixties. The artworks of Henk Helmantel are influenced by the seventienth century pictorial art, especially by Rembrandt and Vermeer concerning light treatment. Also important artists from later on like Floris Verster, Dick Ket and Mondriaan have been significant for the work of Helmantel.
In his still life he often shows different kinds of objects and food on display on a table that crosses the canvas as a horizontal line. They are placed in a way that there arises a balanced composition of colours and shapes, while bright light comes in from the right. In the seventies Helmantel placed the objects concentrated next to each other. In the course of the eighties he spreads the objects horizontaly across the painting and the almost all of the works become landscape formed. Also the lighting changes gradually. It shifts from an evenly light that neutrally shines on the composition, to a clear distinction between light and dark that shows the division between the main and the side toppics.
The object on the still life are mostly old, used and sometimes even worn out. Despite the battered look of the object, the still life shows an image of beauty, peace and balance. Coming from his religion the perception of beauty is important. Helmantel asks for attention and respect for the simple things that were also Gods creation. By painting the objects with much care, Helmantel lets them rise above everyday things.
The perception of beauty on which the still life of Helmantel focus, is also being captured in the church interiors of the Gothic an Romanic church. These spaces show modesty and serenity. Delicate colour use brings the architecture to life and the different sections and shapes together make the painting spatial.
For Helmantel the composition, line, colour and sections are more important for the pictorial art then the objects itself. He searches for the mutual ties and the harmony between the different elements. He increasingly paints parts of the painting with a coarse brush or a palette knife, while assuming that the painting is finely painted. This way of painting offeres him the possibility to work on bigger surfaces.
The artist first makes a sketch on a panel. After that the sketch will be quickly and thinly painted. In the second fase he uses more paint to give more meaning to colour, light and shadow. After that he will put a layer of glaze when needed to deepen the colour and the atmosphere. Sometimes it will even take a fourth treatment to optimize the right effect.