About Joop Smits (1938 – 2014)

By Frits Bolk, art historian, 2019

Artist Joop Smits was born in the Netherlands in the city of Eindhoven and was educated at the Art Academie in his birth town. From early on drawing and painting were his great passions. In 1992 he built a studio in Ireland and in 2002 another one on Mallorca, where he lived permanently from 2008 onwards. Apart from the old masters, the scenery around him was his first inspirational source. In later years he gave his imagination a free rein in his landscapes.

The artist worked 7 days a week, he seemed almost grown  together with his paintings. The many solitary hours, spent in passionate working, seem to return in the tranquil, remote, unvisited and pristine panoramic landscapes. Amongst those are also the series of small pools. They were landscapes in which he worked almost photographically accurate and with meticulous care and precision. Clearness and serene clarity permeate these refined “windows”  showing an unmoved kind of nature. In Ireland he paints his rather closed and melancholic vistas. Sometimes he also uses the image plane from a schematic and expressionistic point of view. All vistas seem to convey a kind of unfulfilled longing, at the same time they are pervaded with the love with which they were painted.

Joop meditated steadily every day. With his “inner landscapes” as he himself called them, he lets the observer experience the light-filled skies and their impressive expansion; an experience of almost timeless surrender, which he must have felt every day in his meditation. Joop lets us share in a supernatural spatial, boundless reality. The refinement and purity of his soft hues makes you go quiet in front of his paintings. Poetic, comforting and lenient are his creations. The translucent skies seem to make the observer forget his busy life with its everyday problems. They evoke recognition or a yearning for a faraway, possibly neglected inner purity. The artist once said: “My paintings should be on the walls of hospitals.” With his beautifully layered, glazed light-filled spaces Joops works seem to heal us …

In his magically reatistic and surrealistic work we see glorious skies with transparent veils of light in combination with earthly structures, rocks, mountains and old trees.The only figures that emerge in his paintings are miniture human beings, which Joop called “the Travellers”. Really tiny beings, painted in great detail, are usually visible at the bottom of the picture. They are travellers, nomads who seem to wander about with their tents or live temporarily in their fantasy villages. What are those tiny human beings doing? The way in which they are painted is playful and humoristic, but also enigmatic and elusive. Are they on their way in life, just as us, the observers? Are we together with Joop, the Travellers? By representing them so small they accentuate the majesty of the bright, atmospheric spaces over them. Perhaps in this way the artist wanted to emphasize man’s insignificance in relation to the greatness of nature.

Also in his magic work we see curious, unexpected elements. The artist not only makes you lose yourself in unlimited space, no, he also keeps you awake with his original, figurative and abstract surrealistic forms. These also funny images show up in his work, objects that challenge the observer. Suggestive and bold scribbling or spontaneous criss-cross lines and fantasy forms of beings have the effect of putting the observer on the wrong track. These alienating, original fantastic forms are in contrast and out of tune with the thin, subtle non-defining skies. Joops paintings tell us about the celestial and earthly worlds. It is as if he wishes to incorporate the absurdities of life down here on earth in the celestial, enveloping mantle of light.

The formations of rocks and mountains are surrounded by an intriguing macro-cosmos and they sometimes seem to lose all earthly gravity or begin to dissolve in reaching out to the heavenly realm. In the space of light on a mountain or high in a tree a white, angel-like figure may emerge, just like that, or as a point of light.

In his landscapes the symbolism of the twelve signs of the Zodiac also comes subtly to life. Here we again see the refined light pervading all his work and we experience space and infinity both on land and under water. All his paintings are devoid of screaming colours and are never meant to be shocking. They are enchanting and fascinating by the magical combination of visible and non-visible worlds.

On Mallorca he shows quite a different aspect of himself. Here we see urban impressions, painted in colourful, substantial and scattered brush strokes. A feast of colours of sparkling, vitalising, idyllic village scenes, markets, bays and still lifes with flowers. In which through the flowers the power of the sun is almost tangible.

Besides his highly imaginative and entrancing work he was not afraid to experiment freely with expressive, colourful surfaces and fantastic forms. Apart from the cosmic spaces we  also see independent surrealistic compositions and drawn sketches.

Joop Smits was an artist with a rich, varying inner power of creation. His work was exhibited in many galleries in the Netherlands, Ireland and on Mallorca and justly so! It is time for his work to travel around the world!

Frits Bolk

Biography

Joop Smits was born in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, in 1938. He graduated from the Eindhoven Academy in 1961. He has been engaged in drawing and painting as his primary means of creative expression since childhood. Early influences include regional landscape artists, the works of The Old Masters and the countryside surrounding his boyhood home. In 1992 he left for Ireland, where he built a studio. Here his enduring relationship with landscape finds new expression. In 2002 he built a second studio on Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands of Spain, where the southern light inspired him to more colourful paintings. In 2008 he decided to leave Ireland to live permanently on Mallorca.

In 2014 Joop traveled in his own spiritual world, he deceased on 27th of March that year.