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Thinking Of Holland (part one), 2023

Generative Adversarial Network; oil and embroidery on canvas, stretched on wooden chassis.


At the center of Daan Couzijn's artistic practice is the romantic longing for authenticity. His body of work ultimately returns again and again to the question; to what extent does authenticity exist?

His series Thinking Of Holland is a continuation of his previous series titled In The Dutch Mountains (2022). With it, he continues to explore and investigate the notion of authenticity. This time focussing on 17th- and 18th-century paintings of Dutch land- and seascapes, which ironically were universal examples of pure and natural beauty. Critically using the same machine learning techniques as with the previous series, he places the 17th- and 18th-century land- and seascape genre of painting in a contemporary context.

The depictions of dramatic skies above wild, Dutch meadows and seas in 17th- and 18th-century landscape paintings are arguably anything but natural. In reality, the polder landscape is a product of artificiality which has been famously romanticised by the many masters that painted them. The collective image we have of the Dutch landscape was created by them; we look through their eyes at the meadows and coasts of the past. Reminiscing a landscape that may never have existed in reality.

Couzijn, who himself grew up in the Dutch polder close to the coast, wanted to further artificialize and romanticize the Dutch landscape by training artificial intelligence to generate interpretations of this landscape, based on a database of thousands of 17th- and 18th-century landscape paintings. These interpretations were then translated into oil paintings by a professional forger who is specialised in the large-scale (re)production of 17th- and 18th centrury master paintings. The result is a series of pictures depicting utmost artificial landscapes that never existed, translated in the most purest form of artistic authenticity: the oil painting. In doing so, Couzijn attempts to give physical form to his desire for real beauty, while at the same time challenging again the notion of authenticity.

These paintings were shown at Art Rotterdam 2023, as part of the group show Prospects (organised by the Mondriaan Fund).

With many thanks to Boris Smeenk, Shui Yún Jian, Robin Koolwijk, Mondriaan Fund, Christian Herren and Lieneke Hulshof.

5 small paintings: 35 x 45 x 3 cm
1 large painting: 160 x 120 x 4 cm