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Kees Alderliesten: Exhibition 12th February 2015

Any contemporary Dutch painter would be forgiven for feeling the weight of 500 years of painting tradition. You¹d think he or she might avoid the still lives, seascapes and fleshy nudes that define Flemish mastery. Well, not Kees Alderliesten. Instead, he takes his knife and brush and paints his way directly towards it.

Kees is proud to represent a contemporary echo of Northern renaissance giants such as Rembrandt and Jan van Goyen. To do their example justice, he obsesses over technique and composition. Kees paints for between 10 and 15 hours a day, and when he¹s not painting he¹s generally thinking about his work. He¹s immensely serious about it all. He says: 'As an artist I paint for eternity, using the most durable materials and techniques. I¹m seeking to continue the Dutch painting tradition.'

This diligence has made him one of his country's most celebrated artists. And in this new show for the Catto, his fifth, Kees displays the full repertoire. The majority of the work comprises supremely delicate still lives, exemplified by the achingly lovely Pink Orchid and Venice Glass. Each of these reflects the taste and judgement of someone who knows exactly where he's come from, and exactly what he¹s doing.

And there's the same sureness of touch in Seascape. Again, Kees reveals he's happy to accept the legacy of history here. In the 16th century, Dutch artists were among the first to depart from classical and religious themes in order to paint the sea. It wasn't exactly accident. This period marked the birth of sea-faring and the rise of The Netherlands as a maritime nation. Painters like Hendrick Vroom set the template for this kind of work; Kees continues it. And in this new show, he even takes on another Dutch tradition: the nude. This is something we haven't seen from Kees in a long time ­ and it's remarkable. Reclining Nude, for example, is such a vivid piece. Visceral as a Rubens, it reflects in its subject matter and execution just how confident Kees is right now. But don't think this confidence came easily. Kees confesses he finds life painting difficult and has worked for three years to reach this standard again.

Another skill he's rediscovered is ?alla prima' ­ painting with a single layer of paint. It¹s understandable that an artist so immersed in technique might wish to return to the ?single take. Perhaps it's like the musician rejecting the overdubs and orchestras, and returning to a song and a guitar.

Here's how Kees explains it: "The beauty of a rough sketch is what captivates me. Rough paintings can be a motivation for a more elaborate work, or they can be left as is. There's something special about the the directness of it."

Fans of Kees' work will be captivated by this new collection, though they may be surprised at his attitude should they wish to buy one. In short, he hates to see them go as for Kees, each work is like a child. He says: "I'm just not too comfortable about selling my work. In fact, it breaks my heart."

In fact, Kees admits he keeps many of his works for himself, and prefers not to show anyone a work in progress for fear they will point something out that bothers him. "I have destroyed paintings because of something someone says." He's even been known to try to buy back paintings. And at openings "he has begged people not to buy things."

He may be advised to stay away from the Catto preview. It could be very upsetting for him.

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