Klaas Berghout has been working as a visual artist since 2008. Since 2010, he has been part of the artists’ collective DOAS and has been working in his studio at “De Oude Ambachtsschool˝ (the Old Trades School) in Zwolle. In his work, he likes to capture the human figure in its many forms. Through the use of a very personal technique, the portraits and figures come to life in the form of pastel chalk drawings on large panels.
Klaas was born in Rotterdam in 1957.
The creative process in the broadest sense of the word, and particularly the worlds which are hidden behind that process, have been important influences since my youth. Art in all its manifestations touches the essence of the human condition, which, for me, is inextricably linked to a sense of “being at home.”
Since my early childhood, surrealism, classical music and modern dance have fascinated and inspired me. I have always found connection and familiarity in the arts—especially in the visual arts—but I have only been shaping the process with my own hands for a short while.
I first started to work in the visual arts in 2008, and I was surprised and touched by the beauty and texture which materials like paper, canvas, and pastel chalk offered. I discovered that each material has its own unique qualities and tells its own story. The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place for me.
Initially, I worked mostly on paper, using oil paints and acrylics, but before long, I caught myself using my hands as instruments. Paintbrushes seemed to create a distance between the work and myself. I experimented with many types of materials, ranging from thin and thick paper to different types of canvas, even burlap. I also experimented with perspective, distance, depth and space.
I like to be close to the material and to feel directly engaged with the work. Paint did not allow me to express myself fully and so, as I went along, I ended up using pastel chalk and kneaded rubber erasers. Now I work on large wooden panels, because space—space to move, in particular—is just as essential to my expression as the discovered material.
By now I have developed a very personal technique. This technique consists of applying layers of chalk (soft pastels, which have a very powdery texture) on wood. I then remove the layers until a painting remains. Often I am surprised by the image that eventually emerges.
Layering is an important theme in both my work and my personal life. It is the connecting theme in my search for the form of, for example, the portraits. It speaks of touch; of paper-thin, multi-layered skin. I have noticed how my technique of using pastels has steered me into the amorphous; the areas and different phases that seem to exist before bone structure, the anatomy of the visage, the facial muscles, and the manifold facial expressions.
The slow emergence of the face from underneath the layering of chalk affects me emotionally and allows me to connect with deeper layers where the origin of the face lies. This connection calls into being a multifaceted feeling, an emotional palette which I find very valuable.
Over the last few years, more depth and perspective have found their way into my work, and the search for this depth has become a beautiful process of gaining tranquility. As such, my own creative process and the work on my images give me great satisfaction and are a continuous source of pleasure and development.