As an artist Rogier Willems creates mainly realistic portraits of large proportions in traditional oils on canvas. He is specialized in full-length portraiture. These days he also paints small scale paintings; 50×65 cm. The detailed space in which a person is depicted, takes up an intriguingly meaningful challenge with the person portrayed. This space and the attributes placed in it not infrequently refer to the characteristics of the person portrayed, but above all evoke a grandeur of associations that exceeds the andecdotal in anticipation. In a monumental setting he tries to connect the intimacy of the individual with the universality of human existence, this way elevating the portrait into an autonomous work of art which ascends the context of the person portrayed. His style is characterized by a strong epic of clearly defined images although he avoids telling stories. His works are realistic by nature and often refer to the absurd.
“Today, being an artist in the figurative tradition does not come without responsibility. To keep realistic painting relevant, it needs depth, intelligence and good taste.
I am an Amsterdam-based artist ready to try my luck outside the Netherlands. I am convinced that the deep intellectual and pictorial quality in my work can be appreciated beyond the Dutch borders. I am focused on expressing the psychological mechanisms of the human condition, using portraiture in oil as the vehicle for this expression. I research the meaning and spectrum of the painted figure and produce portraits that can be a true confrontation.”
In the process of creating his paintings Rogier Willems (Dordrecht 1969*) is inspired by many artists like Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Diego Vélazquez and Balthus. Also painters from earlier times were of great inspirational value to him, for instance Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Fra Angelico and Dirk Bouts. Distinctive features in their works of art such as specific use of perspective and frontal depiction of characters are also clearly present in Willems’ work. In addition to his portrait commissions he is working at present on a series of paintings based on the religious iconography of late medieval and renaissance times. He depicts the great religious theme’s of that period but loosely paraphrases on their original depiction and their unique way of dealing with the subject. In these works he replaces the traditionally religious mood with an almost existentionalistic one in a more common setting. In this series Willems attempts to expand the portrait genre by giving the person portrayed a wider context than just the personal one.
Besides being a portraitist, Rogier Willems is also a stage designer and illustrator. He is one of the founders of theater compagny BEER Musictheater, a smalll scale but award winning company, which does not avoid ‘difficult’ stories for a young audience. This compagny made adapions of books by Nicolo Ammaniti, Erci-Emmanuel Schmitt and Kader Abdollah. Since 1996 he has been designing theatre productions for the Dutch Sesamy Street actor/singer Frank Groothof whose adaptations of operas for young people enjoy immense popularity. Their coproduction started with Mozarts Don Giovanni in 1995, soon followed by Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Purcell’s King Arthur and now total eight stageproductions.
Willems designs the playbills, programmes and CDs accompanying the performances. With actor René Groothof he produces musical performances for the youth, including versions of Hans & Grietje in 1999 and Heer Halewijn in 2002. For these (award winning) productions Willems made simple but effectieve animations which served as a virtual stage for the performers.