Since my graduation from the FHK Academy of the Arts in Tilburg, the Netherlands, I have a studio based practice in Dongen, the South of the Netherlands. For the past 8 years I have been represented by various galleries and have exhibited throughout Europe. I have also worked from Ghana and Spain, which has been an extensive cultural influence on my practice.
In my work, I aim to create compositions that embody both narrative and abstract characteristics, that form a joint interplay. Encounters with people, their personal stories and fate, regularly form the basis for my artworks. Certain regular elements can be found throughout my work, sometimes because of their form, sometimes as a bearer of emotions or meaning.
Another considerable influence in my work is Jazz. Jazz music, as a musical countermovement to highly formalized music, in which all or most musical elements are specified in advance, invites technical and detailed deconstruction of formalized music, through improvisation, and demands focused attention from the listener. This deconstructive process, where improvisation becomes its own dialogue and forms a key element in the work, is a fundamental influence as a method for creating my work.
Large, raw, direct and colorful paintings. Jagged, sometimes brutal, primitive and serrated drawings.
In almost every aspect Ballemans’ work seems to be a contradiction to his friendly and warm character. Only seemingly however, for when you look closely at his work it becomes apparent that these visual expression are the most appropriate ways for him to deal with the world around him.
Niels Ballemans’ self-portrait ‘Ik’ 2007 (translation: ‘I’) depicts the artist in a way that is reminiscent of a shaman; with gazing eyes, bright yellow, simply taking everything in. Ballemans creates his art by being like a sponge; absorbing all impressions and stories around him, whereupon he takes to his studio to squeeze these impressions directly onto canvas. All these whimsical impulses that Ballemans picks up on are then concentrated into an image. This doesn’t mean, however, that his imagery is clear-cut and unambiguous: his art is as multi-layered in meaning as it is in technique.
Looking at Ballemans’ work, its fierceness in colour and technique reminds one of Baselitz and Meese, its alluring compositions, graphic qualities and perspective point of Basquiat. And in the unrestricted way of painting you can see the influence of the artists collective “After Nature” These art-historical influences reveal his love for directness and personal divulgence in expression.
Considering Ballemans is a Dutchman, his art is surprisingly exotic. He comes across as a child of the world, who just happened to be Dutch. His work conveys an insatiable interest for other cultures and his time in Spain, Africa and Costa Rica have clearly affected his art. Ballemans has a gift for making other cultures his own, this becomes apparent when looking at his graphic style. But also his use of colour, his choice in patterns and motifs, his subject matter and the languages he incorporates convey an inherent worldliness. He gazes at the world through his own perspectives but loves to take a peep through another’s eyes.
Encounters with others, their stories and their fate regularly give cause for another piece of art. Ballemans’ style is always seemingly joyfull, but look closer and you will often find a gloom or grim shadow hidden beneath. Looking at the brightly coloured work ‘Hambre’, 2008 (Spanish for ‘Hunger’) you are looking at a beggar begging for dinero (money). Another piece from 2008, ‘Tanger Tarifa’, portrays anonymous refugees and the inscription Clandestino meaning illegal.
Niels Ballemans creates art that stems from his own warm personality and his perception of the world around him. The viewer may enjoy a feast of form and spectacular colour and through Ballemans art meet a person who portrays the impressions of our society in such a sensitive yet direct manner that it is graspable by all.