“Through a process of psychological realism, visual elements are restructured into an abstraction of the landscape and the figure. Living in coastal Maine, I am inspired by the raw beauty of the landscape and the Atlantic Ocean. I am particularly drawn to the worn surfaces I see around me, especially the ships in the harbors with their many layers of industrial paint, scratched and marked and worn down by the elements. Through the relationship of colors, forms, and marks- through rhythm and balance, and the physical and psychological work of painting – each picture develops into a unique expression. Using visual suggestions, I draw the viewer into an imagined landscape, into a colorful, dynamic world that hovers between the abstract and the representational.” J.E.H.
Jaap Eduard Helder was born in 1950 in Velsen, the Netherlands. During this time, Holland was busy rebuilding after the five year German occupation during World War II. This industrial town with its steel mill, freight trains and busy harbors was the landscape of Helder’s youth. The industrial shapes and colors became an integral part of the imagery for his paintings.
Helder went to the classical school to study Latin, Greek, German, French, and English. His interests, however, were primarily in the arts and music. At thirteen years of age he was introduced to the Cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso, and began to understand the possibilities of modern painting.
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The Netherlands, a country rich in cultural heritage, was a great place for someone interested in art to grow up. Escher and Mondrian prints adorned the walls of the school, and works of Karel Appel with his wild and colorful abstract paintings were discussed with the students. Helder also started listening to American jazz, and so began his mutual admiration for music and the United States.
Helder originally started drawing and painting with his father, an enthusiastic portrait and landscape painter. During this time, Helder was included in a few group shows. After completing his education, he spent a year on the Southwest Coast of Ireland, painting and taking photos. From Ireland, he traveled to Israel, where he also lived for about a year. The history of Israel and its landscape proved to be very inspiring for him. He then traveled to Cyprus, Greece, and Italy before settling in the United States and moving to Maine.
From the American East, Jaap Helder began taking frequent trips to the Caribbean, where the intensity of the colors and the African cultural influences initiated his interest in global indigenous art. This led to a series of neo-primitive paintings on sea-worn boards, and later into large paintings of primitive-inspired heads on canvas. Exhibitions of these paintings were held in Portland, Maine.
During the same period, Helder became acquainted with several artists who influenced and encouraged his work, including John Hultberg, an artist who had worked in Paris, New York, and on the West Coast. Hultberg’s experience and travails in the art world inspired and informed Helder’s progress during this time.
Since the late 1980s, Helder continues to paint, exhibit, and sell paintings in the US and abroad. He currently resides in Belfast, Maine.