An interview with Kees Verbeek, September 2020
"Painting is communicating with the canvas, with the paint, with the accidental effects of what I let happen. While I paint I constantly look at what the work brings to me. I tune into that. I am always questioning myself, making decisions. That's a quiet thing. And a lonely thing, because at that moment I am the only measure. "
Ena Rutten (Weert, 1954), visual artist. At times very talkative and she knows very well how to express herself, which is not that strange after many years of teaching. But when it really comes down to it, the thoughtfulness begins. It is of course not the first time that she talks about her art, about motives and methods, but nevertheless she chooses her words carefully. However, this does not stand in the way for a spontaneous and lively exchange of ideas.
We meet in her spacious studio, Atelier 43, in Venlo. Various work on the walls and a large work in progress on the easel. Something with rippling water, a brook, with banks that are still developing painterly. A purple-blue hydrangea is curiously watching from the garden.
Ena Rutten has been drawing since her fourth or fifth year. On the sturdy, white paper wrappers of her mom's nylon stockings. Later, in primary school, she builds a reputation for drawing little faces and little human figures for other children.
After high school, art academy is obvious, but she doesn't feel like living alone in a small room. She prefers to be in front of the classroom, first regular primary school, later special education. In her spare time she takes lessons at the Free Academy in Venlo. Solid courses in watercolor painting, sketching, figure- and portrait drawing. Private lessons on saturdays as well. In addition to the quite busy activity that education is. For fourteen years.
"I have always liked many activities, but drawing and painting have been the most appealing to me, all my life. Well, what is my motivation? Why do I want to do that all the time? Talent, they say, but talent must be developed. It does not happen to you and it is always hard work. A talented athlete who stays in his chair does not earn medals. So there is apparently something that makes me want to keep practicing and getting better and better. This is very mysterious, difficult to explain. Anyway it's not from my brain, not by thinking. On the contrary. An urge ... yes, maybe you can call it an urge. "
It's an urge that sometimes becomes obsessive.The English call this: being haunted. Being chased, hunted. At that point I start dreaming about my work or even lie awake half the night. Actually, I have to much ideas then. That compulsive thinking leads to nowhere, because a painting cannot be figured out in advance. At least not for me. That thinking has to be stopped. "
On the other hand, that urge is also a support in bad times: "Years ago I had a depressive period. You can't paint that away, but the fact that I could paint, that I could put something on canvas, did form an anchor. Last year I was very ill, I could not paint for months. Horrible.Painting as a daily activity is the best for my functioning. So it really is a part of me." At the same time, she is not afraid to put things into perspective: "I don't know anything else either. What am I supposed to do all day? Gardening, cycling with my husband, housekeeping? But of course that is not said in the art world."
Anyone who wants to become acquainted with Rutten's work must be able to deal with some confusion, given the very diverse themes: landscapes, portraits of children, actresses and aviators, rippling water, floral scenes. She does not want to show social themes - corona, black man killed by police - "There is already enough of that. It has to be fluently for me. Elegant and gentle. "
The paintings therefore emanate a serene silence. However, nothing is what it seems and there is more suggestion than reality.
The landscapes are imaginary, they can't be seen anywhere. Like the streams, they only exist on canvas. Not one of the florals grows in a park or garden; maybe underwater, but that's not certain. The portraits sometimes started with a photo, but they were painted entirely separately from it. They were never flesh and blood people. From a distance they seem delicate, soft and young, but if you look closer, the paint skin turns out to be irregular, capricious, distorted, damaged.
On closer inspection, the stillness turns out to be extraordinarily lively in all paintings!
It starts with the idea and that decision remains - a portrait does not grow into idyllic flora. Based on this, the first division of the surface is created. Paint is then poured, blown, brushed and scratched, chaos arises, with optimal opportunity for the play of water and pigment, for accidental discoveries, but: "Ultimately, I am the boss. So quite often I have to kill my darlings ".
But overall, it is an organic process: 'It is layer upon layer, taking a step back and seeing what the next step might be, an ongoing conversation with the canvas, so that at in the end you don't know how it came about. In that respect, it is like real life. Of course, I know important moments and influences, but how it is interrelated? "
Source of happiness
Years of hard work and patience are now paying off in galleries and museums. It is nice to be able to sell. But what matters most is the satisfaction: "Joy. Yes, I can be really be delighted when I'm working and everything is going in a flow. When it's done and I have some distance from it, I can enjoy what came out and that I was able to make it. That is a source of happiness indeed. "