Room installation, wall size 352 x 320 cm ~ oil on canvas on wood ~ private collection
In October 2005 the gallery Dutch-Art contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in a commission for a couple who had just bought a house in the centre of Den Haag. The house needed total restoration and Leo & Aletta were keen to have a painting integrated into the design of their new home. Not everybody has such imagination and foresight; it's more normal to add a painting afterwards; to look around the rooms and decide whether a wall needs something or not. That's the job of an interior decorator who is often hired to give a house 'a look'; to give it a style. As we know styles come and go; what is stylish today could be embarrassing tomorrow ... until it becomes stylish again, but style is just superficial. This is the difference between Leo & Aletta's approach as they decided from the beginning to have an art work specifically made for them and their new house; very brave, daring and visionary. They didn't go shopping for a space filler but for the person they thought would be able to make a statement to reflect their house and attitude to life and since they were already familiar with my paintings they contacted me via the gallery.
The brief was worryingly simple:
"Paul, we have a room we would like you to do something with. You can do anything; use one wall or all four, even put a hole in the ceiling and floor - anything".
Freedom is frightening. It's frightening because there are no rules and you have to make them up as you go along; where to start and where to finish? Fortunately there was one tiny rule and that was the boundary of the room which was 3,52m high x 3.2m long x 3m wide.
Over a series of emails more rules were established: We share an interest in Vermeer; his perspective, light, details and the Interior as a subject matter. Another shared interest is optical illusions created by perspective and enhanced by realistic painting. Both Leo and Aletta are musical; Leo plays the double bass and Aletta the piano, and both are avid readers, particularly Aletta whose idea of bedtime reading isn't a chapter but a whole book. So gradually the idea developed to create a painting which would incorporate music, books and mixture of illusion and reality. A large painting allows greater scope to create an illusion of space but a large painting also needs space to be seen so it was decided that the wall dividing the room from the main living room should be opened up so the painting would become part of that room and seen more easily. I sent more drawings by email and as we agreed on the concept it was as though the stage had been set ready for the actors to appear and the drama to commence - but first the builders had to come in and refurbish the whole house.
In the spring of 2006 Dutch-Art.nl arranged a temporary studio for me in a disused supermarket in Rotterdam, only 16 km from Den Haag, so that Leo and Aletta would be able to see the painting evolve which was a useful process as the theatrical feel to the painting grew to incorporate the interior of an opera house; taking the painting away from the purely realistic into the realm of the semi-surrealistic by adding an oddness to the mood. When the painting reached a certain point I stopped and handed it over to Patrick Driessen the carpenter who was going to make some bookshelves in perspective as part of the composition. The wood for the bookshelves and the flooring were selected together to ensure the painting would fit in harmoniously with its surroundings as an illusion can only successfully take place if one is unaware of the point at which reality stops and the illusion starts.
Over a year later, in June 2007, with work on the house almost complete, the bookshelves and the painting were installed leaving me to finish off the painting. Obviously when I had left it I knew that alterations would have to be made because the painting would look different in a different environment but because I was half way through the commission for P&O Ventura and the majority of Leo & Aletta's books were still in storage, plus the arrival of Jan, their now 5 month old son, they suggested that I return to finish off their painting when the builders had completely finished, they had had time to recover, and I had finished my other commission. I returned and calmly completed The Music Room in May 2008.