At the age of thirteen, he was absolutely convinced:
I want to be an artist, a painter, just like my father Freek. That decision
or rather that keen insight, has been all-important for Roland van den
Berg up to this very day, 37 years later now.
Standing in front of Van den Berg's paintings and prints,
one notices at a glance that he has been right in sticking to his calling.
The obvious love of colours is what he shares with his Dad, who taught
him in his youth, but in every other aspect the contrast is obvious.
He was admitted to the Rijksacademie (National Academy) on account of
his exceptional talents. Those were restless days for the rebellious
young, and a year and a half later he was expelled from the academy,
on account of... a complete lack of talent! But, gifted or not, Van
den Berg was determined to decide for himself which road he was going
to follow. Rather than the `decorative' Matisse or Van Dongen, the fiery
and far more extreme André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck were
his heroes. Flaming red, blazing from the canvas, deep yellow and sharp,
at times angular lines in highly rhythmic compositions that tear open
the landscape, take it apart and reassemble it. The urge to look behind
the picture itself, as Chaime Soutine used to do, but also, conversely,
the love of fields and hills, of tiny cottages in France, and of small
streams setting a water wheel into motion.
Sun flowers pressing themselves into one's face and
towering above one with their stems, but also Amsterdam in all its beauty,
as one hasn't seen it anywhere yet. Van den Berg paints pictures so
full of vigour and energy, that they seem to strain aganst their frames;
looking at them, one realizes that Van den Berg has turned his observation
inside out for us, thereby enabling us to detect its inner being. Radical
expression in optimal form.
Van den Berg's work isn't just beautiful, smooth, or
lovely, it never represents the first, pleasing, visual impression,
but, rather, the unadorned essence. That goes for the artist himself,
too: anyone who sees his wonderful portraits and notices how true to
life he renders his subject, with mere line and colour, doesn't doubt
for a moment that Van den Berg can see right through a person. Indeed,
his sketchbook drawings as well as paintings from the period he spent
in hospital, portraits of himself and of fellow patients, are remarkably
human, which lifts them far above the level of random pictures.
His children's cudly toys, a portrait of his son as
Hardrocker, the small paraffin stove with which he heated his big, cold
studio, a portrait of himself as a clown, the Blauwbrug over the river
Amstel, all of it renderend in vivid, vibrant colours that refuse being
shown their place in a representation, but collide and contradict, and
yet, somehow, quite unexpectedly, blend into remarkable harmony. An
occasional vision - an alley in a French town, then again a view of
a city in a merciless downpour - magnificent in an unruly way.
And floating above everything, yellowish clouds with
the orange fringe of a late afternoon sun over glistening pools, or
the artist himself looking up at us from way below. Self-mockery and
irony are part and parcel of Van den Berg's nature, which is ultimate
proof of the seriousness and sincerity with which he goes on developing
his personality in his art.