Van Erp Aaron - Untitled

2003 - Oil on canvas - 140 x 210 cm

“You can often laugh about gruesome things too.” With this remark, Aaron van Erp (1978) characterizes his paintings that, with their often brutal subjects, still evoke a smile thanks to the bizarre titles. Aaron van Erp has had a flourishing career since graduating in 2001 from the Academy of Art and Design in 's-Hertogenbosch. Nationally and internationally, his paintings with their alienating representations have been included in various collections, including the leading Saatchi collection. Aaron van Erp opens his first museum solo exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag with an overview of paintings and drawings that he made from his Academy days until now, with the emphasis on his most recent work.

Jars of peanut butter
Van Erp often uses recognizable objects from the world around us in his paintings: shopping carts, meatballs, jars of peanut butter, Edah bags and washing machines. He places these in barren desert-like landscapes or large empty interior spaces. His colorful representations sometimes refer to well-known paintings from the past (De Meatball Eaters, 2000) or evoke associations with social themes such as terrorism, health care problems or child abuse. For example, the painting De Kleutertemmer (2006), in which a shadowy figure maintains order with a whip, is immediately reminiscent of child abuse. But the work is, despite the sadistic undertone, also humorous due to the way of painting. The green boots of the tamer, the title, the use of color and the absurdist environment put the intensity of the performance into perspective.

Thematic
The theme of victim versus perpetrator also plays an important role in Van Erp's paintings. This is clearly visible in the work Medical Personnel on the Meatball Plantation (2005/06): at first the viewer sees two figures of the red cross busy with a victim. On closer inspection, they appear to be ripping the victim apart and making meatballs from the meat they skewer in bare trees. The boundaries between good and evil become blurred, so that rescuers can also be perpetrators and vice versa.

Inspiration
In addition to inspiration from everyday life, influences from the work of artists such as James Ensor and Francis Bacon can also be recognized. This is reflected in amorphous figures, the color scheme, a surreal atmosphere and the fragmentary way in which Van Erp paints his figures. His social and political involvement shows kinship with the work of Francisco Goya in which he also stands up against violence, freedom of thought and human suffering.

Aaron van Erp was part of two major museum exhibitions in 2006. Jan Hoet selected his work for the international group exhibition Sieben auf einen Streich in the new Marta Herford Museum. Van Erp was also one of the three Dutch painters in the exhibition Netherlands - Germany in the GEM, museum for contemporary art in The Hague. Here his work was shown in a room with the work of the German painter Matthias Weischer. This dialogue between the two artists will be continued this winter, because in January the first Dutch solo museum exhibition by Matthias Weischer will open in the Gemeentemuseum.

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