“I see a black world and I want it painted blue” (not the Rolling Stones)
I want to beautify images of man-made horrors beyond my comprehension into images of peace, inspiration and energy.
I often find myself shocked at the sight of a world full of man-made disasters. It seems that human ‘civilization’ always comes at the price of war, poverty, oppression and destruction of nature. Our wealth and comfort depends a great deal on the suffering of people and the environment elsewhere. This paradoxical nature of human ‘progress’ could make one very cynical.
And in fact I believe most people today are, consciously or unconsciously deeply cynical and defeatist. Most of us accept the ‘fact’ that there will always be war, poverty and oppression and that there is little one can do about it. We have learned to shake our heads about ‘naïve’ concepts like ‘world peace’ or ‘saving the planet’. Some of the implicit dogma’s of mainstream worldview are that human behavior is guided by destructive animal instincts which cannot be changed; that ideals like ‘beauty’, ‘truth’, ‘goodness’ and all big narratives about God, men and world are subjective, useless and even dangerous. And finally that life is essentially meaningless and the search for meaning itself therefore is in vain.
This cynical/fatalist mindset has been nurtured by a century of nihilistic thinking, literature, art and cultural production, itself influenced by the horrific events of both World Wars of the 20th century.
I think that this mindset, even if it seems sincere and honest, could very well be harmful because it makes people depressed, docile and unimaginative. Many people don’t even really try to understand the evils in the world anymore, but rather look away and get high on one of the abundant sources of entertainment that our society offers. An obedient, defeatist society that does not allow itself to imagine and to dream about a better future is fertile ground for manipulative, destructive forces to flourish.
Transforming horror into beauty
In my work I try to overcome the overwhelming social forces of cynicism and defeatism through the power of imagination. I use images from news stories and recent history that have collectively traumatized our civilization and have informed our cynical outlook on reality. The subject matter of my paintings is mostly taken from the acts of senseless violence and injustice that we, as the so-called civilized West, have been involved in. From colonial times to the recent era of the “War on Terror” and beyond. While painting, I try to transform those images of horror into images of peace, inspiration and energy.
I very much believe in the power of imagination. The power to hope, to desire and to dream of a better future. I think we cannot live without it. They belong to who we are as humans. All humanity has ever accomplished, for better or for worse, always started by someone having an ‘unrealistic’ dream, someone being able to imagine the unimaginable. Yes, we should learn from history and at no point should we ignore reality. To the contrary: we should carefully try to observe, study and understand reality, no matter how painful it is. However, an honest description of the current ‘reality’ should never be confused with, or distorted into a ‘final conclusion’ about the essence of humanity or the world.
Reality, instead, should act as a starting point for the question: where do we want to go from here? What would the world look like if we really acted like we all know humans should act? What if we would really try to solve problems peacefully rather than violently? What if we would try to distribute the global wealth fairly, to protect the weak against the strong and to treat the planet and animal life with respect?
Ultimately I believe we can overcome the evil that we continue to reproduce. This process has to start by a change of mindset though imagination. In the words of Martin Luther King: “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.”
My name is Jakob de Jonge. I was born in 1982 and live and work in The Hague, The Netherlands. I graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in the summer of 2012. I have exhibited in many galleries, art fairs and festivals around the Netherlands and abroad. My work has been sold to public collections like those of DELA and Museum Krona and in many private collections.
Apart from being a painter I am also active in human rights and peace building. I worked for organizations like Justice & Peace and Amnesty International. In 2014, I founded The Hague Peace Projects, an organization which brings together diaspora from conflict areas in order to initiate dialogue and develop peaceful solutions.