I recently received a surprise package in the post - my copies of the short book I had translated from Dutch on the young German painter Jan Bilitewski. It was written last year by the Dutch art historian and critic Jet van der Sluis for the HeArtpool Foundation.
Bilitewski won last year's HeartFund Scholarship for the paintings he exhibited at the 2014 Degree Show of the Academy for Art and Design, Enschede, where he was studying. The jury which selected him as the 2015-16 recipient of the Award were unanimous in their decision: Bilitewski's work was outstanding and well deserving of recognition.
The work is mature and deeply touching, drawing on iconic imagery of the Madonna and Christ, and perceiving parallels to their suffering lives in the contemporary world. A series of paintings which can be seen on Bilitewski's website illustrates very well the intersection between contemporary relevance and traditional imagery. Titles like 'recession', 'slump', 'pieta' and 'resurrection' point to both the now and the then. There is a very modern mind behind the work, but one sensitive to and deeply moved by the archetypal elements of the Passion Story which Bilitewski clearly perceives as playing out in our contemporary situation. Apparently impersonal economic forces can create immense suffering and pain for ordinary people, which is why the titles 'recession' and 'slump' are applied to these modern versions of crucifixion imagery.
I'm delighted with the little book which was the outcome of Jet's essay, Jan's paintings, and my translation, and hope that it will lead to more people being introduced to the work of this very fine artist.