Text from the brochure from the solo exhibition ‘Jardim Secreto’ in the Castelo de Evoramonte
“Portugal is the inspiring Muse for the latest works by Ingrid Simons. A Muse who whispers for her to focus not only on the present or on the future, but also on the past. That leads her to try a different palette of colours, to investigate the Mediterranean light and to explore pottery making.
A muse who says that good art is not only the result of talent and brainwaves, but also of craftmanship, perception and perseverance.
This muse shows that the world consists not only of stars and misfits. That emotion and reason are like cup and sauces, and that happiness is a result and not a goal.
Her muse lives in a secret paradise, somewhere in Portugal.
“Focus” and “spezialization” are generally assumed to be a condition to achieve success. But Ingrid Simons shows that things can be different.
Although Ingrid is a gifted oil painter, she can express herself excellently in photography, silkscreen, etching and ceramics. Ingrid Simons made diversification her guiding principle.
Recently she explored the possibilities of ceramic tiles as a base of her art. Starting point were the traditions of Portuguese azulejos and Delfts Blauw (Royal Blue). She deeply dug into history and techniques took training at a Portuguese master potter and went to work with conviction and ambition. The first results are promising and seem to find a clientele.
Topics in her semi-figurative work change every few years, from church interiors and landscapes or vague seascapes to still lifes.
In the few moments that she is not occupied with her art making, she is a talented dressage rider, teacher kizomba, student in Portuguese language and advisor for printing techniques.
Ingrid Simons is dedicated to tradition, but has a passion for discovery. During her residency in Portugal in 2010, she decided to investigate tile making.
At the 18th and 19th century azulejos ornament the walls of monasteries, town halls and aristocratic homes everywhere in Portugal. They are generally blue and white and depict landscapes, religious scenes or floral motives.
Often, these azulejos were plastered over ancient mural paintings. These paintings were brightly colored and had devotional meanings.
Ingrid Simons decided to try her painting with azulejos for support but in a new style. She refers to tradition by making landscapes in blue and white.
And like historical azulejos which may be fixed over ancient murals, Ingrid’s tiles suggest something that cannot be seen.
The final result of her work diverges in style and meaning from the traditional azulejos.
Ingrid’s tiles are not didactic or decorative. Like in her paintings she creates an atmosphere of dualism. Romantic is the first impression, but it is closely followed by uneasiness. They are contemplative and intimate, but also dramatic and thrilling.”
Ana Pais (DRCALEN) and Ludger van der Eerden and Carolien van der Laan (Fundacao OBRAS)
“Dream of a summer night (Midsummer night’s Dream)”
Last year, I fell in love with Portugal, this year it turned out to be a lasting love.
Last year I was invited for a residency in Portugal, where I’ve never been before.
In Portugal I found the typical, beautiful, strong light; the same light, that I normally would exaggerate in my paintings to get the desired result. I also found the long, black shadows, that I already used in my paintings, but here I saw them ‘in real life’.
Inspired by the river ‘Ribeiro São Brás’, which flows here, I started a new direction in my work. Here I made, for the first time, paintings in only green and blue. Because of the direct link of the green to the landscape (grass, trees) and the reference of the blue to the river (water), I could translate this topic in a free, abstract way. In my work I have always researched the ‘ borders ‘ between image and paint, but with these paintings, I am really searching for ‘the most beautiful flowers that grow on the edge of the abyss ‘.
At Fundaçao OBRAS I found a residency with for me the perfect conditions to work. It’s really fantastic to spend whole days in the studio, painting.
Walking through this beautiful landscape, taking pictures and getting inspired by these landscapes with the possibility to directly afterwards convert all of the impressions in the studio and to capture them in paint. It is very important for me to be able to fully concentrate on my work for one month, hereby the processes are accelerated and deepened.
I should also mention that these two years I drove to Portugal all alone (in the company of my paintings). Last year I transported the paintings for my solo exhibition ‘A luz de lua’ in Ēvora, as well as all canvasses for the work period, as they had to be transported horizontally, because of the thick, and slow drying oil paint.
It is a long journey by car, but to me it also feels like a kind of pilgrimage.
It helped me grow as a person, and as a visual artist. During such a long journey you can clear your head, it sets you thinking about your experiences, your inspirations, your work, and during the journey there are also so many beautiful things to see.
The complete change of surroundings, from the typical plains of the Netherlands, the urban areas surrounding Paris, and after passing Orléans the countryside with the vast fields, to the hills near Biarritz, and its rocky, windswept coast, to the mountains near San Sebastiàn, to the wide landscapes in the more southern areas of Spain, and the huge, white, almost fairytale-like boulders, when you enter Portugal.
Last year when I drove back to the Netherlands, I had a strong sense that I had to return, I had the feeling that I had just barely started…
I promised myself that if, after a month of returning to the Netherlands, this still felt so strongly, I was going to try to return. I thought, that the butterflies of this ‘love at first sight’ with this beautiful country maybe would still disappear.
But the desire to return only grew stronger, so, even within a month, I wrote a new project plan. And I was so happy, when an invitation followed to return.
So this year I came back (2011), again in March and April. This is a beautiful season, because when you arrive, it is still a bit cold, and after that everything starts to grow, the landscape gets greener and greener every day. The first leaves are of such an incredible intense color green!
Then slowly the flowers begin to bloom and the meadows color yellow with flowers, the birds sing and the grass grows knee-high, and even the temperature during the day can already rise pretty high.
It looks like you see nature awakening from its winter sleep.
Luckily it turned out to be a strong, enduring love.
From the day I crossed the border of Portugal, I was already convinced that this (once again) would be a very important period for my work, and also for me personally.
When I arrived at Fundaçao OBRAS, it felt like coming home.
This was true also in relation to the work in my studio: because I already knew this space, I knew how the light entered into the studio (important for a painter) and I felt at home again after a very short of time. Because of this I used from the first moment the complete surface of the studio (this in contrast to the first year).
The first week, that I was at Fundaçao OBRAS, I was lucky, that two long walks were planned, so that I could completely get inspired by the awakening nature.
Only a few days later, I could already start making sketches and painting.
I have spent entire days and nights painting in my Portuguese studio. It is so good to completely immerse yourself in your work, I could finally fill my days with painting, hiking, photographing and writing texts.
After collecting inspiration and photos during the first week, taken during the walks, I started making sketches. Actually only within a few days I had made sketches for the three largest canvasses, that I could transport in my car: 100 x 140 cm.
One of those paintings is inspired by the Ribeiro São Brás, which flows close to the residency. I started this painting with only green and blue; it became a very different painting, than the paintings, which I’ve made last year inspired by this river. To be exact : more freely and abstractly painted than last year (this also applies to the small sized canvasses). This river is a beautiful theme, because you actually only need the fundamental lines, to recall a reference to a figurative image. That gives me as a painter a lot of freedom, but the difficult thing is because of all these possibilities to not get lost…
During the weeks, that I worked here, I could spend so much time in my studio, that I could paint the paintings, that I have mentioned above, but I could also work on my black and white paintings, inspired by the nearly black water rivers, with the white anemones, that grew in the river. But I could also work on painting the dark woods, where the strong sunlight pushes through, and the light finds her way. The light makes the leaves more abstract, and eats away through the figurative shape of the leaves ; It lets a path of light appear, that seem to tempt you to walk into the forest paths, of which you do not know where they will lead you.
I have also made a few paintings without any sketch photo, just based on a line sketch.
Only commenting on what happens during the painting ; the landscape rises and arises from the paint.
I was and am also very inspired and intrigued by the azulejos (the blue-and-white tiles made according to Portuguese tradition). Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve studied these azulejos (as in Lisbon, Sintra, Redondo, Estremoz and Ėvora).
Then I dreamed about maybe one day being able to make them myself, as a tribute to this Portuguese tradition, and a tribute to everything that Portugal as already given me.
With the help of Ludger, Carolien and Luis I met a real master in ceramics, called ‘ Mestre Xico ‘.
He was so kind to help me. I wanted to make tiles, as big as my small paintings: 40 x 30 cm. ; three pieces.
When you paint ceramics, the colors with which you paint are totally different from the colors after firing. For example; the lilac color, with which I have painted, is after firing the darkest, most characteristic color blue of all azulejos.
I was inspired by three photos, which I have made in Sintra, in one of their beautiful parks.
In each tile there is a different diagonal game; in each tile the light makes the shapes of the tall tree more abstracts, which, without the strong light, would entirely close the paths. The light tempts you to go onto the paths into the forest, where, the deeper you go, the darker it will be.
I also use of this working period, to explore photography as an autonomous medium, and not only as sketches for my paintings. Eight photos were printed in Ėvora, which I’ve made here in Portugal.
Based on photos of Portugal, that I made last year, I created a series of four silkscreen prints, two silkscreen prints inspired by the Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, one by the pure nature of Sintra, and one by the park of the Gulbenkian in Lisbon. These silkscreen prints are built up with first a black/silver colour, to a very light, silver color. Most silkscreen prints consist of four colors.
These prints play with perception and meaning ; forms, which seem both flat as realistic, depending on the movement of the viewer, when he passes by the prints. The silver colors change from closed, flat surfaces to figurative, realistic forms.
Also this year I have during this working period selected photos of the Quinta and of the park of the Palacio da Pena (both in Sintra) to serve as the basis for new screen prints. I will print theses silkscreen prints in the Netherlands, to further complete this series.
This year (2011), but also last year, my stay in Portugal was very important for the development of my work. I discovered blue and green as important colors for my paintings, blue-black paintings arisen, which I had previously never made, and which I probably without these residencies in Portugal would not have made. Also the opportunity to take the time to experiment in my studio and the possibility to devote myself, in full concentration, to painting the entire day, speeds up my development enormously and deepens my work.
Also by making the azulejos (according to the Portuguese tradition), but (with great respect) translated to my own visual language and painted with traditional paint based on the Portuguese pigments, on this special, handmade, tiles, a whole new direction in my work has arisen. I would really like to be given the opportunity in the future in order to more and more extensive deepen this technique.
It was, once again, a fantastic experience. I have been working very long days, and it was very rewarding to be able to work a whole month fully and only concentrated on my work and to be able to work on new ideas immediately ; this is incredibly valuable.
And still … I still feel, that I am just beginning to be inspired by the beautiful Portugal.
Evoramonte, Portugal, April 2011
Since then I am now (2015) returning for the sixth time to the beautiful Alentejo and I have been given the opportunity to, here in the Museu do Artesanato e do Design, Ėvora, to show my fourth solo exhibition “O azul do Alentejo sob o meu olhar” in Portugal, showing only my ceramic works, that I made in Portugal.
At the same time, I present an overview of paintings and silkscreen prints of the last recent years, which I have made here in Alentejo. The exhibition called “Raios de Luz” is presented by the Museu Municipal Prof. Joaquim Vermelho in Estremoz.
By Jan Doms
The diagonal is a line connecting two non-consecutive vertices. Born and raised in Tilburg, a city formerly renowned for its textile industry, the diagonal makes me think of woolen twilled fabric with its chalk stripes across. The paintings by Ingrid Simons seem to contain an invisibly sub-dermal, transversely woven grid, based on which the navigation of space, light and motion occurs. This provides those who want to see it, with framework to fixate on the figures and objects and to give them meaning. This depends on the time of day, under which angle, and in what mood one may look at the paintings.
The works possess a high degree of intimacy. This gives a sense of privilege, being allowed a glimpse into her personal universe, captured in the brush strokes. Sometimes they contain figures with their faces turned away, or people who are withdrawn, caught up into a world we do not know, but undeniably relates to the depicted space in which the life in question is reflected; life from a lost era. The human factor also has a strong connection with the objects depicted in the works, an animistic approach to depicting a chair, cupboard, bed, curtain, radiator, tree, car, and often to the architectonic and scenic space as a whole. Even where the human figure is not physically present in the presentation, the viewer gets the eerie feeling that you are not the only one bonding with the evolving moment. The treatment of light and lines reveals the lithographer behind the painter. Light comes with shadow. However, the connection between light and the shadow cast by the artifact in the modulated space, changes Ingrid’s work continuously. Natural laws, overridden by the power of imagination.
Some years ago I went sailing on the river Maas with my painter friend. We started out early on a bright and sunny morning, observing the scars of industry that dominated the landscape. Towards the evening, dusk took possession of the watery area, with the pregnant damages to riverbanks vanishing in a wondrous fashion. Twilight embraced each irregularity until our eyes feasted on paradise alone. The light came from all around us. Shadows stood out and the colours of heaven connected with the gentle muttering of the engine. The manner in which light is represented in Ingrid’s paintings – the German word darstellen reflects that so beautifully – is, in my view, extraordinary. In combination with the figuration, she creates in her own way a unity of time, place and action, thereby giving it a dramatic effect, without necessarily making it a drama; more of a poetic merging of more and less far-reaching events, to which the observer remains oblivious.
As a sculptor, my first focus of interest has always been the way in which a painter defines space, both the enclosed space and the space taken up by the pictorial components. The third dimension is perceived only when one moves about, adopting fresh vantage points in relation to the objects in the space, thus being indissolubly tied to the time such a move takes. The paintings by Ingrid are made as if they would permit actual physical entry. You would like to touch the figure and close the window. Rest your ear on the pillow to become a participant in the tableaux. Seat yourself on the bench and feel the gliding sunlight burning on your cheeks. Hear the rustling of the leaves. A car driving off. Simply let the wind move through your hair or, while crossing a street, cast your own shadow and see it gradually dissolve into the painted light.
Ask an old sailor, and he will tell of the breathtaking colours of the finest sea on this planet, the Baltic Sea. The endless shades of gray, ochre and mauve lighting up in the wake of the setting sun. The continuous changes in the palette of the sky, as observable as the movement of the small hand on the clock. At night the northern light is playing at the horizon. The skerry coast glides by and floats on its shadow. Once you have seen this, you know what role colour and its metaphysical effect could have in the desolation of endless waters. And, sometimes it is dead silent. This is the mirror image of tranquility. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the work by Ingrid Simons, is diagonal tranquility. Just before the storm of the spirit, or right after the breath of life has subsided.
2005 (Publication “Crossroads”, Ingrid Simons)
“Fear brings hope”
Ingrid Simons paints the way we look
By Alex de Vries
Ingrid Simons makes paintings you may think you recognize. You look at them and assume you know what you are looking at. Wrong. And you realize immediately that you are mistaken. Many of her paintings show things from the back, indicating what she left behind, the painting’s point of origin, and what she as artist envisages. Her figurative work is difficult to pin down in fact. Though everything she paints is a portrait, especially where the subject is not people but their shell and surroundings, the mood that surrounds them, the thoughts and feelings resonating around them. She portrays this in true essence; not by precision painting their appearance but by accurately catching their indefinable form. Ingrid Simons makes it easy on the observer, and this is precisely the trouble. What she paints is hard to describe. You might describe the external features of her work, providing a purely stylistic analysis of her method of applying paint and composition without succeeding in clarifying the meaning of her paintings in the slightest.
The paintings by Ingrid Simons have an intimate character. They also have something fearsome, the notion that life can pose a threat and that you have a duty to oppose it. The personal intimacy of the work ensures that she always manages to overcome this fear. As she paints, she finds hope in desolate mankind. Rarely are people depicted with such self-reliance as in the paintings by Ingrid Simons. The obviousness of this condition enervates the spirit as one studies her work. She permits no room for misunderstanding, no matter how mysterious her paintings may be. It is a matter of facing the truth that you cannot escape who you are, and this always in the temporary relation to the surroundings, people and situations one encounters.
Ingrid Simons has an eye for circumstances that everyone knows or accepts with virtually no resistance, on which she, as the painter, imposes her will. Nothing in her work has been staged and yet you look at images that, like film stills, compel you to reconsider the notions you imagined you were certain of. The colours you see have you think in black and white. Painting, she adds in equal amounts what the preconceived notion left behind. This strips the painting of any history, but the moment that you might think nothing further is happening in the painting, the past hits you. You are forced to reconsider what you failed to see earlier and what you are yet to see. You are forced to look, think and experience, taking the painting as your point of departure.
The paintings are contemplative and demure, but not empty or sober. The paint does the job. Each painting has clearly been thought through, but Ingrid Simons does not produce art of ideas. She always paints man, focusing on the psychology of man. Her paintings are a form of behavioral studies, not through observation but through elimination. In this respect, it is merciless work. With this method, a painting of a chair in the Bois de Boulogne shows who sits in it, even if this person is not in the painting. You decide what you see. In fact: Who you see. You may decide whether you are going to sit down in that chair or not. This is precisely how you decide on the way you wish to look at paintings by Ingrid Simons, whether you like them or not. So, have a good look.
30 August 2005 (Publication “Crossroads”, Ingrid Simons)