04 Impressionist Period: the late 70s and early 80s

After my secondary school, I went to the Ghent St Lucas Institute, in September 1978. My first two student years (1978-1980) gave me a strong classical art education. I worked extremely hard, non-stop, drew a lot and studied anatomy, nature and the old masters, on a daily basis. Stylistically in the period between 1978 and 1980 I ended up working in a post-impressionistic way.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Nina’, 1980. Pastel on prepared watercolour paper.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Nina’, 1980. Pastel on prepared watercolour paper.

Robbert Ruigrok,’Fatima, Turkish Child’, 1980. Pastel.

Robbert Ruigrok,’Fatima, Turkish Child’, 1980. Pastel.

‘Fatma, Turkisch Girl’, 1980. Detail.

‘Fatma, Turkisch Girl’, 1980. Detail.

Robbert Ruigrok, Cafe ‘t Dambert, 1980. Pastel.

Robbert Ruigrok, Cafe ‘t Dambert, 1980. Pastel.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Cafe ‘t Dambert’, 1980, Detail. Pastel.

‘Cafe ‘t Dambert’, 1980, Detail.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Horse at Farmhouse’, 1980. Watercolour on Paper.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Horse at Farmhouse’, 1980. Watercolour on Paper.

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‘Horse at Farmhouse’, 1980. Detail.

My early self-education about composition remained however the basis for the ‘framing’ of my work, while the beauty and harmony of nature surfaced as the main theme: I was surrounded by it all the time, both during my youth in the hilly countryside of Nukerke, later called Maarkedal, in the Flemish Adrennes and during our family summer holidays in Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Portugal.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Farmhouse, Nukerke’, 1980. Crayon.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Farmhouse, Nukerke’, 1980. Crayon.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Farmhouse with Chicken’, 1980. Oil on Wood.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Farmhouse with Chicken’, 1980. Oil on Wood.

At St Luke, initially the guidance of my classical teachers Herwig Driesschaert and Harold Vande Perre, a constructivist connoisseur of Rubens, Vermeer and Breughel, was very fruitful. After two years, the routine of the countless figurative drawings I produced, became a joyless repetition, with now a dangerous phenomenon of getting detached from the soul as the basis of creativity, moving more and more to professional and photographic reproduction of objectively observed reality. In fact the frustration of all academically trained painters of the 19th Centrury became my fate as well, and like them a revolutionary step seemed necessary.

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‘Farmhouse with Chicken’, 1980. Detail.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Kardamili, Greece’, 1979. Gouache on paper.Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Kardamili, Greece’, 1979. Gouache on paper.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Blue Selfportrait’. Oil on Wood,  1980 79 x 63 cm.

Robbert Ruigrok, detail of ‘Blue Selfportrait’. Oil on Wood,  1980 79 x 63 cm.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Portrait of Mirella’, 1980. Oil on Board.Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Portrait of Mirella’, 1980. Oil on Board.

Rob Ruigrok, ‘Still Life with Cow Skull’, 1981. Oil on Canvas.Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Still Life with Cow Skull’, 1981. Oil on Canvas.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Stilll Life with Fruit’, 1980. Pastel.Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Stilll Life with Fruit’, 1980. Pastel.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Self Portrait’, 1980. Gouache on paper.Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Self Portrait’, 1980. Gouache on paper.

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Self Portrait in front of open window’, 1980. Gouache on paper, 120 x 100 cm.

 

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Self Portrait in front of open window’, 1980, detail. Gouache on paper, 120 x 100 cm. 

Robbert Ruigrok, ‘Self Portrait in front of open window’, 1980, detail. Gouache on paper, 120 x 100 cm. 

The Search starts (1980-1982)

In September 1980, together with two friends, we moved out of the graphics department, to the painting department, of no-one less than abstract and minimalist artist Dan Van Severen – yes, the same artist who 4 years earlier only ‘taught’ me about the key of the composition and abstraction through the 1976 articles of the ‘Openbaar Kunstbezit’ magazine. Coincidentally Van Severen taught in the same St Luke Institute in Ghent. So I made a step back to my first, albeit distant mentor.

Unfortunately, the nearness to the subtly dominant personality of the teacher resulted in a serious squeeze on careless creativity for many of his pupils. I think the same happened in me. Stylistic achievement, if revered, worshiped and, in the worse case scenario, copied, leads to the death of the artistic spark which motivated the original creative process. Strangely, in the years 1980-1982, I never got the fruitful impetus back that was triggered in me 5 years earlier at the young age of 15, by the distanced influence of Van Severen through the art magazine I so eagerly read. What the department did though, was shattering the academic virtuosity, which had killed ‘meaning’ in favour of display of skill. After this collapse of the security of set ways of traditional aesthetics, for me, the search for meaning took over and drove all my endeavours.

In the late seventies and early eighties, we were still in the middle of the cold war. Prevalent questions at the time were along the lines of: ‘Why create a square meter of beauty in a world that could get destroyed at any time? Is it not like a drop on a hot plate?’

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One Response to “04 Impressionist Period: the late 70s and early 80s”

  1. […] 04 Impressionist Period: the late 70s and early 80s […]

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