Jan van Rijn is the nom d’artiste of a large and growing oeuvre of drawings and graphics in his own distinctive style of eroticism, which have now been collected in more than half a dozen limited edition books, renewing and maintaining a long tradition of beautiful collectable volumes.
Van Rijn (hinting at the link with Rembrandt van Rijn, the greatest of all Dutch painters) grew up in the Netherlands, but is now based in southern Germany, as he says ‘backed up by my beautiful female companion and the mostly moderate use of the flavonoids, polyphenols and phytoalexins to be found in French red wine and some rieslings of the mid-Rhine valley’. As well as producing artworks in a variety of media including dry point etching, mezzotint, engraving and digital prints, he is also a stonemason and sculptor.
He started sharing his work online in 2005, and his first illustrated book, The Book of Hours, was published in 2010. Most of his recent work is scanned and then enhanced digitally. Much of his material originates from mainstream porn sites, though more as an inspiration than any sort of direct copy. As he explains, ‘I mainly work with these images because I am looking for an idealising effect. If everything goes well, the original imagery is elevated to an ethereal level, contrasting with the bluntness of the original photograph, visualising the shifts between object and desire, and revealing the fact that phoniness often holds an essential truth. Though a figure may be recognised as being in a “porn pose”, the authenticity of my interpretation is essential. My interpretation is not meant to be a portrait, more an expression of adoration, an inscrutable quality which affects the viewer, and which might even carry traces of religious faith and divinity.’
Fellow artist Kayla Freedman has written of his work, ‘Jan van Rijn has a very distinctive style, taking more standard erotic model poses and rendering them in an exaggerated and sexually corpulent fashion. There are no anorexic waifs – the bodies are fleshy and unashamedly sexual. His figures seem to revel in their exhibitionism and wantonness. His erotic drawings cover straight aspects of sexuality, but then also stray into more fetishistic iconography – high heels, long nails, lingerie, bondage, piercing and transsexuals. The style of van Rijn’s erotic art is very simple, just black, white and grey, but while these images may at first seem bold and simple they are anything but. The quality of the lines and shading is deliberate, the detailed layering of fine lines in the hair, the lips, the nipples, but also the careful rendering of the delicate folds. And the drawings which push the distortion of angle and view, or where the body seems to expand to fill every crevice of the canvas – it is this attention to detail where the work becomes art.’