Ellen De Meijer
b. 1955, Netherlands
Ellen de Meijer is on a mission to confront us with an uncomfortable truth that defines modern life. Despite an incredible technological revolution, we are still bounded by the limitations of our physical bodies, which have not yet evolved to catch up with these developments. De Meijer therefore sees us as primitive beings, rather than the evolved race we pretend to be, trapped by the confines of societal expectations. We have slowly drifted away from being pure human beings, and instead have embraced a naive belief in power, material possessions, and individual greed, which is now starting to show its devastating consequences on a global scale in the form of everything from inequality to environmental disasters.
Ellen de Meijer has created universal types who appear harsh, egocentric, and even Darwinist, while simultaneously seeming helpless and lost. She feels a deep compassion for these victim stereotypes; often dressed in too-tight tailor-made outfits that burst with image building but allow little room for individual expression. Bound by financial and social constraints, these figures have adopted conforming, cattle-like behavior to avoid conflict or discomfort – the new norm - as if the force of evolution drives their actions. The true problem is that we already know all of this, but seem to have given in and given up.
De Meijer’s characters seem to be empty souls, but with their trademark small mouths, they become somewhat adorable, even childlike. Children are portrayed as mostly victims, and often express a subtle dissatisfaction in their eyes, blaming their parents for the world they have inherited. The figures’ looks support the notion of superficiality. In support of her mission and chosen themes, de Meijer often incorporates absurd references to modern life, and her characteristically sober brushstrokes allow the message of the paintings to supersede their style.
Modern life is a highly demanding societal construct that apparently prefers appearance over sincerity, truth, vulnerability and insecurity. De Meijer recognizes the benefits of economic and scientific growth, however it seems that we are having an incredibly hard time coping with the impact on our primitive emotions and bodies. Through her paintings, she rejects this zeitgeist and believes a revolution is possible. If we all become more authentic and sincere, we would be able to live with each other instead of against each other.