Standing in front of a transparent painting by Judith de Vet is like diving under water. The sometimes thickly applied paint changes before your eyes into moving plants or corals in which fish dart away. Perfectly round dots float up here and there like air bubbles.

De Vet calls her paintings, applied to thick plexiglass, ‘underwater paintings’. For the diver in tropical seas, space, silence and beauty reign underwater. But when you think about ‘underwater’, other thoughts may also arise. Inhabited land that has been flooded, as a tactic of war or natural disaster. Or the threat of rising sea levels and the death of coral reefs. The paintings balance on the edge of abstraction, so that the viewer can see and think what he or she wants.

What makes the 360° paintings so special is their transparency. De Vet paints both sides of the plate, so that it is actually two paintings. No, four, because you can also see the back of both. This means that painting, no matter how free and spontaneous it may seem, must be done very thoughtfully. If she paints over a brushstroke with a different color, it still remains visible at the back. While painting, De Vet ensures the right balance between the two sides of the painting, and between light and dark tones, transparency and paint. Ultimately, this creates a work that you can wander over and through with your gaze, constantly discovering new details, color combinations, brush strokes and see through views.

The paintings may be placed freely in the room, so that you can walk around them and feel the movement. And so that daylight can play through it, just like in open water. Smaller works in the series are so thick that, despite the fact that De Vet works with paint, they are not actually paintings but sculptures that you can place.

Judith de Vet is an admirer of the late work of Claude Monet: his wall-filling, slightly curved water lily paintings that completely absorb you. The transparency and suggestion of moving water can also be seen in her work. But she does it radically different: she dives beneath the surface and makes three-dimensional paintings. In paint she conjures up a tranquil underwater world, where it is pleasant to relax.

Anneke van Wolfswinkel,

art historian / cultural journalist




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