Maarten ‘t Hart lives in Balkbrug (Overijssel), on a small road that GPS can’t find right away. After a few minutes’ drive on a sandy road, I come to a small farm that looks like it looked a hundred years ago. But it looks like it is, the farm has been slowly being renovated over the past 50 years and last had exhibition space in what was once a hay barn. If you walk from the dirt path to the front door, you will pass a large vegetable garden – there are generally about two hundred species of plants and trees around the house. In the exhibition space: paintings and drawings evoke the same semi-forgotten atmosphere as the house and the garden. Flowers, fruits, small animals, but above all: old buildings. Among these, especially the interiors of the church, rendered realistically, are huge spaces, almost always high columns and round arches, white light falling through the windows over the tiled floors. Because the human figures are completely absent, they are always completely silent, almost mystical.
We are sitting outside in the shade of a large oak tree. There is coffee, and then we get a vegetable soup from the garden. On the garden table appeared books about his life and work, Martin Hart And the Martin Hart, the sequel. If you browse through them, on one of the first pages you’ll find “Interieur Sint Joriskerk Amersfoort,” a painting from 2002. It’s the chapel next to the house he was born in, from the living room he looked directly into the choir. What he remembers: “The first time my mother took me to church, I was about five or six years old. I was instantly stunned from space. Since then I have been crazy about churches.”
Martin Hart (72 years old) comes, he says, from a family of businessmen. His grandfather started a tent and sail maker, later his father took over the business from him, as the eldest son who was destined to follow suit. But he went to art school. “My father understood that I wanted it. He would have liked to sign himself, but his father thought he should join the company. As an assistant, my parents bought a job that I did at the academy. I also had a small studio in my father’s company.”
You could say there was more understanding of his work at home than there was in the Art Academy. “It was a time of abstraction, wasn’t it, but I thought: I just want to learn the trade. There were more students who thought they went to the drawings room just like me. And to drawing lessons. I also had struggles with teachers, at one point they thought that what I was doing it was really crazy. But since my work was so good, they couldn’t put me out. I just finished the academy.”
Drawing isn’t just about looking, it’s also about smelling and listening
What is so attractive about painting the interiors of a church?
“Ancient churches have a certain atmosphere, they are sacred. You feel that as soon as you enter, you begin to speak more softly. I like Romanesque churches more than Gothic churches. After that it quickly diminishes. Classical, Baroque: that doesn’t mean much to me.”
“Romanesque churches are the simplest and therefore the strongest in terms of spatial impact. In Gothic it becomes more fluid and you get more light, which I like by the way. It’s less focused light, and often whole pools. In Romanesque light, you have little light traps on the floor and against the walls. , which is often a bit ambiguous.”
Is it about light?
“For everything, really. Painting is not just about looking, it’s about smelling and listening too. The general atmosphere of such a space, sober and meditative. I also don’t draw people in it on purpose. There are no pictures either, I leave them outside if they disrupt the lines, And sometimes they’re very backward. In an empty church, you focus on space and light. Everything that surrounds you is distracting.”
Just like modern life is distracting. Martin and Annelies, 67, have three adult children growing up here. There was no cell phone. And there is no car either, there are two bikes in the shed. They eat vegan, and a lot comes from the garden. Homemade bread is served with soup. And there is no camera in making paintings, no matter how realistic they may seem.
How it goes: “Before I paint the house, I paint the interior of the church. And while I do that, I mathematically compare all the elements I see. I have a small wand for that, a thin brush from which I remove hair. First I hold this wand horizontally in front of my eyes.”
He takes a stick and shows it. “For example, if I were to measure the shed here in the garden, where I now put my thumb at the end of the wall. Then I turn the stick vertically, it looks like this. Now I see that the shed is a little higher than it is wide. This way, I cross the entire interior of the church, so that it becomes All proportions in the later painting are correct.”
At the same time you delete things, such as pictures of saints. Or you can replace stained glass windows with white glass windows.
“I do it for the atmosphere, but also because the composition then gets better: it’s not always good. And then you think: It’s very beautiful here, but these columns should be a little closer to each other. Sometimes a certain wall is very clear , and I think there has to be a proper place in it. Or: I’m going to move that window a little, and then it’s better in place. What matters is that you make a good painting, and you handle your subject freely. Otherwise you can take a picture.”
Things have happened in my life that you think should be sent
Today, the interiors of the church are well known, and his name is a painter, but when he began to paint, the same name sometimes led to confusion. Articles in local newspapers will say that he not only painted, but also wrote books. They even met once, Martin R. Hart the novelist and Martin Hart the painter. “Before long. He has people wanting to buy paintings and I have people asking for books. I don’t even remember who took the initiative, I think he wrote me a letter. We’re not family either, it was once settled. Anyway: name, reformer, then The garden too.Because we still do biology, he’s a professional and I’m a hobbyist.I do an inventory of wild plants and regularly pass things on to nature organizations.So I was really confused there too.And you still happen to hear people say:Look,that’s it The place where the writer lives and this is certainly his big garden. But we also have contradictions of course. He fell out of his faith.”
And you don’t. Does faith play a role when you draw?
“Sometimes yes. For example, when the light slips beautifully on the dinner table. I consciously capture such a moment in the painting I am making. And sometimes others take the symbols. Once I received an article from a church magazine, in which I described a painting of me. The painter said about me, The painter meant it. I read it and thought: This man is right. But I did not see it that way myself. I mainly paint and draw logically: the light must come from that angle, and thus through the windows so and so, because that is true of all.”
Do you go to church on Sunday?
“Yeah, usually here in the village. I come from a Christian family and I kind of inherited that. I also love a bit of a strong sermon. And in church, you maintain contact with your fellow believers, which is also a way to grow your faith. Apart from that, I’ve passed With some experiences that made faith so much stronger for me.”
Can you tell us more about that?
“I find it difficult. Let me say: There have been things in my life that you think: This is absolutely impossible if you start to think normally, so this must be directed.”
Would you like to try it anyway? Just writing this makes it a bit…
hesitated. “I rarely tell this story, it’s basically a very nice experience for ourselves.”
Dan: “I paint a lot of churches, but I also paint old inner cities. One day I wanted to go to an inner city like this to sit there and paint. But the weather was nice, I actually felt like I was working in the garden. Again, I said to myself. But in the garden I thought: I think I’ll start drawing. So I grabbed the bike, and rode it on the road a little, but then I thought again: No, I don’t feel like it, I’m going to work in the garden. It was a very strange doubt, I’ve never had such before. So I put the bike back And I went back to the park.But I kept having this strange turbulent feeling and thinking again.I took the bike again and left.And what happens:I get on the train, someone is waiting for me to show me a place.He says sit there.I didn’t know that guy all, but I did what he said.Then He sat in front of me. He asked me to explain to him what faith means to me. I thought this was strange, but it was good: I wanted to do it – and he listened very carefully. One time the train stopped, shook my hand and said: Thank you for this conversation, I was today at a crossroads in my life.And then you start to think, and then you think: This is part of the practice of faith that is usually mysterious, and About which you sometimes hear something, which is also found in the Bible, but now you are testing yourself. My guts caught me, because I had to be there at that moment. Exactly at that moment I had to help that guy more.”
I don’t have to do everything myself, there are forces standing by my side
What experience would you like to share with someone looking at your church interiors?
“Contemplative atmosphere. But also space and light. I want you to experience a certain peace. And you can think a little bit: why is that church there, what does faith mean. “
Can you still sit in church without thinking about light and lineage?
“If I had no intention of drawing, I could. But I have a professional deformity, even in those moments I dissect everything in lines.”
And where do you get your meditating moments?
“From prayer. Prayer for me is something that always works. It’s also not that I’m telling a story out of nowhere, I regularly notice that there is a connection in that moment. I also want to thank all the good things out there, because I have so many privileges. And I ask for protection, for the day Good. I start the day with prayer and also end the day with a prayer of thanksgiving. I find that very soothing, like: I don’t have to do all of this myself, because there are forces that help me. Faith is a reality in our lives that we live every day.”