Pentimento merges classical western painting with contemporary methods

Meaning “to repent”, Pentimento refers to changes made during the painting process, generally concealed beneath a paint layer.

Richard Horstman

Richard Horstman

The Jakarta Post


Painting in process: Noella Roos (right) works on a painting of a Balinese dancer. (Courtesy of Noella Roos) (Courtesy of Noella Roos)

November 28, 2022

JAKARTA – Dutch artist Noella Roos exhibits an authoritative body of works painted over 10 years in Bali. Pentimento invites the audience to learn about Western painting by exploring the human form.

Versatile, potent and beautiful, the human body is a remarkable creative phenomenon. The eternal muse for artists throughout the ages, iconic figurative images mark the passage of
history. Pentimento, Roos’ exposition of oil paintings, drawings and etchings, describes portraits, nudes and semi-nude compositions. Her classical and modern representations pay homage to Rembrandt, Titian, Matisse and other masters. Powerfully emotive, Roos’ images arouse melancholy, longing, drama and harmony.

Meaning “to repent”, Pentimento refers to changes made during the painting process, generally concealed beneath a paint layer. Open from Oct. 29 – Nov. 30 at Pentimento Gallery, Mas, Ubud, Roos showcases six large-scale charcoal on paper drawings, a lithograph, four intaglio prints and 28 oil paintings in sizes from 159 centimeters by 97 cm to 28 cm by 20 cm. Her objective is to educate and help the audience understand the painting process and the many aspects that strengthen a composition so that they may have a greater appreciation. The Bali-based artist and art teacher is known for her drawings; however, Roos has never exhibited her paintings in Indonesia.

“I am a drawer by nature; I think in lines, not in surfaces and planes,” said Roos, an award-winning artist who has lived in Asia for most of her life. “Drawing is spontaneous. I respond to emotions: amazement, love, anger, drama and fun. I study live models or dancers in a ‘realistic’ manner, which I transform into paintings with figurative and narrative elements and abstract values.”

Roos’ techniques vary from chiaroscuro, the classical method of representing light and shadow, to à la prima, paintings generally completed in one quick session. Grisaille is an underpainting technique, and impasto is paint applied thickly and boldly with a palette knife. Glazing, an aesthetic finishing, identifies several works. Optical mixing of color on the canvas and her palette recalls other compositions. The golden mean is a reoccurring natural ratio governing the proportions of how things grow, plants and animals alike. Leonardo da Vinci most famously used the 1:1.61 ratio on the Mona Lisa. It is a guide toward achieving a more pleasing composition design and is a distinct quality of Roos’ works.

Painting in process: Noella Roos (right) works on a painting of a Balinese dancer. (Courtesy of Noella Roos) (Courtesy of Noella Roos/.)

“I have access to a variety of dancers in Bali, local and international. As a result, I shift from traditional- to modern-dance compositions. Recently, I have preferred modern dancers allowing me to work with emotions. All dancers bring different energy that is wonderful to respond to,” said Roos, whose obsession with figurative images has genuinely manifested in Bali. She portrays the body as a dynamic vehicle of expression: theatrical, sensual and vibrant.

“When transforming a painting from figurative to abstraction, I base my work on the classics by the Greeks, Rembrandt and others,” she said. “I wish to impart a sense of timelessness into my work. It is beautiful to add that level of emotional expression in your work — the human connection, as an essential source of inspiration.” Born in 1969 in Amsterdam, Roos has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions worldwide and on four occasions in Java.

Raised in a family of artists, at an early age, Roos drew and painted and was exposed to many art styles in European museums. Aged 18, she studied drawing, sculpture and theatre design at the Academy of Arts Minerva, Groningen, The Netherlands, and for two years focused on sculpture. In 1989, she learned drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium, and from 1991-1994 at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the Academy of Fine Arts, Athens, 1994 –1995. She has taken courses throughout her career, including art and philosophy. Roos began as an impressionist, a la prima painter, and then her style evolved into more complex compositions of color and design.

A short movie also on display in Pentimento reveals her search for the perfect composition in which she repaints Glacier, one of her most-compelling pictures, over 30 times. Defined by a fluid design leading the eye around the body’s contours, the subject’s arm reaches down to clutch her right ankle. Roos has full command of the composition, depicting a challenging pose few would envision, let alone wish to attempt. Vibrant reddish-ochre coloration bedazzles. The light source illuminates the face leading us directly back to the subject’s peaceful, loving expression. The model is positioned upon a checked cloth inspired by Matisse, offering a potent aesthetic contrast.

Roos transforms the venue into her gallery and studio, painting most days, sketching models and working with a student. A discussion about Pentimento on Nov. 6 was a fascinating investigation of how to distinguish the varying technical attributes in her paintings. It was revealed that even the most minute alterations could lead to significant optical transformations. Roos’ palette evolves from dark and moody cool tones to vibrant warm colors. She works on wooden panels, on paper applied to boards, on cotton and linen and is also an accomplished digital artist.

Roos displays expert knowledge of anatomy, composition and arabesque — the line and pattern of the body in movement. She constructs images, arranging aspects of studies executed in her rapid-fire style while observing dancers holding brief yet powerful poses. Her training as a sculptor remains deeply embedded within her painterly style. Qualities of color, brush stroke and texture portray vibrating abstractions; animated with motion and sensations. Roos’ gift translates the model’s life force into mysterious and seductive images.

Indonesian art has an obsession with the contemporary. Yet to begin to appreciate painting, one needs to investigate the classical genre to comprehend the European masters’ extraordinary achievements. This research can help validate modern developments. Pentimento offers valuable insights.


Pentimento Noella Roos 

Oct. 29 – Nov. 30

Pentimento Exhibition Gallery

Jalan. Raya Mas Ubud, Gianyar, Bali

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