Q&A with JAN DILENSCHNEIDER
An expressionist artist
with a love for the impressionist palette
You presented your work for the first time in 2013, in Paris. Why did you wait so long to exhibit your work for the first time?
For a long while, I hadn’t ever thought of selling my paintings, until a couple suggested it to me when they expressed an interest in some pieces of work displayed in my home. I was taken aback, but I agreed. When they left and took my paintings with them, I was horrified! They had taken away my babies! But I moved on, and Pierre-Alain Challier offered me my first exhibition at his gallery in Paris. It’s really him who launched my public career. I now exhibit a lot at small museums and universities in the United States, but I still love Paris and that’s why I am so happy to go back there.
Take us to your studio on Long Island – a spectacular place – and describe it to us.
When I push open the doors – which are Palladian in style with a fanlight – to my balcony, I always feel a rush of inspiration, just like the one I feel before I start to paint. On beautiful early spring days, when the new grass is blue-green and the young leaves on the trees are almost yellow, they form a stark contrast against the azure sky. The more you raise your gaze, the deeper blue the sky becomes. It reflects the calm waters. A hundred-and-twenty-year-old pavilion by the water’s edge gives me a magnificent setting in which to paint in the shade or to receive friends. Century-old trees cast ever fascinating shadows onto the lawn. However my studio is a pale gray, neutral space that doesn’t interfere with the shades of my paintings.
How do you work? Do you use photographs?
As an expressionist, when I work I follow my inspiration, which I draw from my surroundings. I often take photos with my phone while driving – I stop the car on the side of the road – or while walking, whenever I feel the need. I never produce an exact copy of the image before me; I observe it closely, and then put it to one side to paint what I feel. Picasso once said: “Let the painting guide you.” My instincts form the basis for my creative process, which I think makes the results more personal.
You have developed an original working method based on diptychs and now triptychs. What do you gain from dividing up the image in this way?
I produce diptychs for one very simple reason: I love painting on a large scale. I often say that I paint with my entire arm and not just my hand. So my canvases can sometimes become too large for some people’s homes. I like to call my diptychs “pairs”, which can be bought together or separately as each half is a work in its own right. These days, families often move home. Two paintings hung together above a sofa can be placed on either side of the fireplace in the next house. So by painting collections of two or three paintings, collectors can install them however they wish at home. Of the 21 pairs that I have sold, 20 were bought together.
Sometimes your colors are subdued, other times they are vivid. Can you explain your relationship with color to us?
I think that it is important for the color to “sing”. Sometimes it is nice to simply let it “whisper”. When wanting to produce this effect, I use similar shades that blend easily. But I am really passionate about using vibrant colors and strong contrasts. That is what I call “singing”. These shades transform one another. For example, a bright, pale yellow completely changes when placed next to a dark blue or a beige. Ultimately the most important thing is to balance the colors on the canvas. I always say that in painting, color is joy and the gestures are passion.