Menno Baars

Menno Baars is known to the public as a painter and cardiologist. He started painting from scratch after studying medicine and did not attend art school. “The irony is that from the first day of cardiology training, I changed profoundly as a person. It was as if I suddenly understood, saw and absorbed everything,” Baars said.

Baars takes issue with contemporary notions of how modern art should be: conceptual and especially not “from the heart with the hands in the paint. He taught himself true painting technique with extraordinary speed and naive tenacity. His rebellious determination to paint with full abandon is reflected in his energetic early paintings with heavy painterly touches full of texture that are strongly reminiscent of the work of CoBrA artist Karel Appel. The imagery is nimble: Canvases are created with an almost childlike figuration in bright colors and paint applied in thick strands with violent strokes. Ostensibly, he “brushes off his paint pot as quickly as possible,” but those who look closely recognize all the talent in the budding artist.

Some artists have all the luck; they mature and grow. So did Menno Baars. He soon develops his own and very recognizable style. A scribe of his own with which he manages to become increasingly sophisticated, evolving over the years into complex and multi-layered work in which disorder seems to reign more and more.

Says Baars, “I’ve always had an inner urge to always move forward, explore and go all out.”

Over the years, attempts have been made to capture Baars in art movements such as New-Expressionism or Portmodernism, but this is an artist “in the making” at every moment of his life, constantly renewing, changing and adapting himself. In recent years, the art lover has been especially partial to his painterly insight. The raw apt brushstroke remained. The bright high-contrast color palette and so recognizable way the paint is smeared also. But now the focus is on a surprising tessellation crisscrossed by bold lines in a dirty and messy pattern and an increasingly striking anachronistic jacket. The earlier work even comes across as somewhat dated compared to the spaciousness and confusion his new paintings exude. Although unabatedly painted in the infectious enthusiasm that so characterizes him, it now seems that the tough mischievous paint-smashing is united with a kind of petty bourgeois painting. The combination of raw raw expression and bitchy aspects on the one hand and the lack of context about what underlies it on the other; wanting to be guilty and innocent at the same time. Things don’t seem quite right in his compositions. Baars searches for images that sing themselves loose from reality, and the viewer gropes in the dark, so to speak, as to why the work was created. The hilariously long titles he often gives his canvases don’t really help either. However, the work undiminishedly reflects his zest for life and his sense of humor. And despite the humor, the drama is always undiminished: in the mask-like heads, the popping colors and the coarse expressive touch.

Captain Beefheart said it all: “You got hot paint and you’re havin’ fun.”

Works of art for sale