Julius Stibbe’s spherical paintings are unmistakably the work of a sentient being. Just look at the colors used, at the effect or direction of the paint, at a well-placed dot or follow the path the light takes. Every painting contains hints and clues without being a puzzle, because the artist sometimes follows those indications as well. Just as musicians don’t necessarily know what the song is about at the time of writing, neither does Julius Stibbe. His starting point is taking life as it comes. The beautiful and the ugly, the light and the black aspects, the sublime and the ordinary. Universal themes, all the ups-and-downs that everyone experiences.
Actually, Julius Stibbe’s young oeuvre is a kind of diary. Everything he experiences and feels ends up in it. Sometimes in the form of a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts, other times as a defined, clear moment. All things considered, the paintings are like barometers that reflect the mood of the day. A painting can be about the loss of his father, about mourning, sadness, loneliness or helplessness, the process of becoming a family again, a summer love or just letting go of a loved one, a vacation in Italy, a beautiful place in Bali, the energy between two people, the feeling of night or Monday morning. But just as often he has no idea anymore what the immediate cause was and the painting evokes a fluid feeling. This, then, is pure feeling based painting.
After initially painting figuratively with recognizable elements, Julius Stibbe changed course about two years ago and undauntedly explored abstract painting. He plunged into the formal side of the métier and put the act of painting at the center. Once painting had kicked him around the block many times, since 1.5 years the personal, intimate and vulnerability has reappeared. Since then, Julius Stibbe has been moving back and forth between abstraction and sentiment. Because his work constantly walks the line between those two poles, a work is sometimes thicker in emotion or, on the contrary, it is more about form, color and the fun of painting.
The heavy oil paint scent of this pasty, emotionally charged abstraction welcome you immediately. The paint is copiously applied with a palette knife. Nice putty. To the extent that some sections won’t be dry for a few years. Here and there layers of paint coincide with emotional layers. In some paintings, those thick layers of paint reinforce the emotional pore and cause, for example, an oppressive feeling, a lack of oxygen, light and space. In other paintings, there is no greater thought behind that pastiness than simply the pleasure of painting. There is variation with the texture and structure of the paint, with the direction of the brushstroke. A ridged part is next to a smooth piece, a horizontal texture contrasts with a vertical texture, and a plane that is bold in the paint is adjacent to a rougher shape. Now and then he removes entire layers with sandpaper to bring back light. While experimenting, Julius Stibbe at times chafes at the odds. He calls this ‘bullying or teasing’ himself.
Julius Stibbe is strong at dots and eyes. An unintentional series he started around graduation is that of the two faces. From time to time another such painting or encounter pops up. They are mostly austere representations with little more than two heads against a background. Two well-placed dots as eyes set the scene. Two people looking at each other, although it is not excluded that behind some heads more than one person is hidden. All sorts of things are exchanged in the gaze. Softness, love, but sometimes the tension can be cut to the bone. On closer inspection, those dots also turn up in forms that at first glance do not look like heads at all but perhaps are. Dot, eye or sun is a favorite motif of this intuitive painter.
Text: Nanda Jansen
Julius Stibbe (1995, the Netherlands) studied at HKU, Utrecht. He was nominated for the Royal Prize of Painting in 2017 and 2023. In 2020 he participated in a group show at Centraal Museum Utrecht. His works are part of numerous private collections and corporate collections such as Akzo Nobel and KPMG.