POWERFUL WAY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF IS IN A WAY THAT'S CLOSE TO YOUR HEART
Marcel started his career as a professional artist in 2003. However, as a child, he never thought of becoming an artist.
"I've drawn for as long as I can remember. I filled stack of sketchbooks with images of animals. You wouldn’t find any houses or figures or cars in my books. But even in nursery school, I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to become a forester.”
So Marcel went to the College of Forestry and for a couple of years, he worked for a Dutch nature organization.
“During my work, I never stopped drawing and painting. First for family and friends, until the nature organization for which I worked asked me to make some illustrations.
More organizations started to contact me and besides my job I became a freelance illustrator.”
It was 2003, when Marcel came up with the idea of making paintings of animals. Not in their natural habitat -what he used to do-, but against a monochromatic background which seems to be swept.
“I made a few paintings, put them on a Dutch website -selling contemporary art- and within a week I sold three of my paintings. Gallery owners started asking for exhibitions. It was amazing. I never thought of becoming an artist, but when this happened…"
Marcel decided to take this chance and quit his job at the nature organization.
He puts the illustrations on a low level and spent all his time on making paintings, following his own logical process.
HOW A FORESTER BECAME AN ARTIST
REFLECTIONS OF POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES
During the years that follow you see obvious developments in his work. The empty backgrounds and the nearly life-size animals are still there and became his recognizable 'trade mark’. But to stand out from the crowd, Marcel felt that he had to create an extra dimension of suspense, depth and humour in his paintings.
“In my recent work, a good observer can find reflections on politics and social issues. The animals in my painting have been chosen carefully to reflect on human nature without being too symbolic. It is something what have been done for many years in the past. Since the ancient Greek, fables where used to show human weaknesses and abuses, without becoming too personal. People become mirrored with their thoughts and behaviour on a subtle way. In my work I also do this. Not with words, but on a visual way.
For me -as an artist- making paintings of animals is a perfect way to ‘tell my stories’. You can say that I'm a visual storyteller, within the literary tradition of fables.”
CLEAR AS POSSIBLE
The reason that Marcel takes the animals in his paintings out of their natural habitat and place them against an empty background has also to do with the story he would like to tell.
"From someone who wanted to be a forester you may understand that I really like nature, with all the variety and the animals that live in. But if you tell a story, it’s important that it’s as clear as possible. If you give to much information, the message will be disturbed. Therefore I only show what’s necessary to tell my story and you don’t see any traces of landscapes. A single coloured background deepens the image, intensifies the contrast and creates an emptiness that is at the same time attractive and repelling."
For Marcel, the outside world is a never ending source of inspiration. The daily life in his own neighbourhood can be as thrilling as traveling in foreign countries and exploring nature and other cultures. Observing people in their common routine often makes him wonder how he can translate this into a painting. But also greater issues in the contemporary society or in history are inspiring for him.
Besides he’s inspired by a lot of movements that fall under the overall umbrella of contemporary art, without admiring one artist in particular.
"A contemporary artist in my point of view is someone who is always on the move and alert for what lies beneath the surface. He is capable of expressing what he sees in his own visual language with respect for the viewer, but also with freedom of speech and without concessions."
The paintings of Marcel Witte have national- and international appreciation. Marcel sold many paintings to collectors in Europe, Asia and America and had exhibitions in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Germany, France, Singapore and Cuba.
“Becoming a professional artist was a good decision,” he says. "I feel blessed that I found a way to express myself in my own visual language. That I’am able to tell stories with my paintings and that I can reflect on politics and social issues. I make my living out of my passion and hopefully the last years were just the beginning…"
The Netherlands, 1974
'Disabled' (acrylic on canvas, 35x85 cm) shows a sparrow with her wings tied. “She is free, but captured by her disability.”
'Lackadaisical' (acrylic on canvas, 30x30 cm) shows a little rabbit with a key on his back. “When you feel you've lost all your energy, it's good that there is someone who gives you a helping hand.”
'Migration' (acrylic on canvas, 250x125 cm) shows a polar bear mother with two cubs. They are standing on a mattress of air, searching for a new habitat.
“Instead of the polar bears, I could have painted a parent with two children, sitting on a raft. The story I want to tell is the same, but by using animals the painting is less confronting.”
'‘Behind the scenes’ (145x145 cm). The diptych of two canvasses shows the head of a roe deer which seems to hang as a trophy on the wall. But on the other canvas you see the back of the deer, standing on a table. It is a reference to the recreational hunting. There is a living creature behind the trophy on the wall.
"My most colorful painting ‘Plastic seal’ seems cheerful. However the thoughts behind this painting are more serious. It’s a subtile reference to the 'plastic soup’ (great Pacific garbage patch); a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean."