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Ray Voeten

Ray Voeten is a contemporary painter who has exhibited in the Netherlands since 1983, especially in Amsterdam. He has been the subject of an in print published critical review catalogue documenting and spanning the first 20 years of his artistic career, with a preface written by the art critic D. Pappers, PhD. Ray describes his inspiration for art comes from feeling like a superhero discovering his superpowers for the first time” after the completion of a painting. Ray has exhibited in the city of Amsterdam about 20 times over the past 40 years including 7 solo exhibitions to date. 

The paintings come off like a jolt of energy, a blast from the past. Usually based on retro imagery with figures wearing outfits from the 1960’s era, Ray’s paintings are portrayed in a pixelated fashion. Not a digital pixelation but rather as if peering through an aged VHS cassette video or old polaroid photograph. There remains the illusion of static and electrical interference in most of the paintings, continuing with the retro nostalgia. The works contain a variety of muted tones applied with rough brushwork and high contrast with blocked off forms. Ray’s imagery varies from portrayals of vintage objects such as rotary phones and record players to women wearing retro outfits in different modes of scenery to video stills from popular aged movies such as the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek, or the repeated paintings representing Mrs. Robinson and Dustin Hoffman from the film The Graduate. Ray even has paintings based on video stills of television shows and old westerns. These references to the past are painted in a way to glorify the golden age of pop culture and of a simpler, less confusing era. 

“Benjamin, do you think you can give me a hand here?” (pictured above) portrays the iconic Mrs. Robinson adjusting her jacket or blouse waiting for Dustin Hoffman’s character for assistance. Without knowing the title or reference, what we come across is a minimalistic painting of just a hint of a woman’s shape and shadow, with the portrayal of arms reaching back, a dark coat, and a stylish retro leopard skin skirt. Appearing more like a printmaking print rather than a painting, the work barely has any signs of detail. The painting remains so abstract at first it may be difficult to assess whether the figure is facing towards or away from the viewer. There are literally only three colors in the painting, a muted green, an off-white pastel, and a toned down Prussian or Phthalo blue. The streaks of negative space broad brushwork on the subject’s jacket alone reveal a naturalistic texture of attire. Such a precise painting which conveys representational scenery in just hints of form, light, and shadow. 

Ray Voeten’s iconic pop art paintings instill upon us to conjure up the past with a contemporary perspective and aesthetics. Rather than simply represent his subjects, Ray applies granulated and pixelated distortions of color, shadow, and line quality. The paintings only suggest the subject with blocked off forms and severe high contrast as if shined upon with a harsh and focused light. The article serves as a retrospective of an astonishing portfolio which captures the retro and nostalgic euphoria of reminiscing about the 1960’s golden age of mass media production values.

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