Jan Olyslager – "Art, just because..".



Jan Olyslager does not belong to the group of artists that are pre-occupied spending their time building a career. He is not one of those who, full of themselves, make their way to exhibitions and galleries and exchange a well-chosen word with a critic or a curator in order to blend in as a chameleon along the camouflage colors of fashion.


Jan Olyslager is averse to the artists' circles and clubs that create their own world. He walks his own road in silence, humble but firm.



He lives in a house in an unfashionable district in The Hague and his studio is hidden as a shelter.


It is a true privilege to be allowed to visit and to watch.


With care Jan Olyslager takes out his canvases. One by one, so they can be well seen by those who really want to see.



Most of the work of Jan Olyslager is abstract. The work is of a complex nature. It takes time to understand the meaning. Jan Olyslager is not helpful to his audience by giving his paintings titles. On the contrary. Almost all his works are called "untitled".


The viewer is left to his own devices......


However you can also say that “The starting signal for the discovery is given” and a good method to do this can be “say what you see”.

There are many types of color boxes and they are in a virtually unlimited space.


Loneliness, Infinity, who knows ....?


There are color patches with an outline, a black contour almost while others are independend by the strength of the color. They stand for themselves. Often you see two unequal units collide in the middle of the immense space.


The violence of the collision and the power of the confrontation is indicated by the smaller areas of color, often rectangular, sometimes put down with just one paint stroke, with a big portion of paint from the palette knife.



These small colored areas indicate the direction, usually towards the source of the conflict.

In addition, there are the individual lines that determine the speed; as if they guide the two contrasting movements until the fatal moment. They are therefore indispensable.

Sometimes we are witnessing the explosion, sometimes not.

Still it seems that the worst is yet to come .. An unbearable sense of tension takes possession of the viewer.


Jan Olyslager allows us into the depths of his inner soul. Maybe that is why he is so reluctant to show his work to the general public and to have it easy showered with criticism and judgments hastily pronounced.


But let us also take a further look at things. Apart from situations of confrontation there is also a situation of balance. However, this is a balance that is not static like the work of Mondrian.

If there is equilibrium in the work of Olyslager then it is one of a delicate balance. Like balancing on a tightrope without a safety net.


His loneliness is that of a trapeze artist, in an endless space unprotected and merciless with every possible misstep.

Sometimes there is despair, and sometimes there is triumph, victory over the impossible.

And we, the viewers? We watch breathlessly.


Jan Olyslager's art is sincere and consistent. His art is spiritual. His kindred spirits are Kandinsky an Kupka.


He would paint when even no one would look at his work. For him art is a necessity, a vital necessity, because he can not do otherwise.



The result is as it is. His art is readable for those who take the trouble to learn to read his handwriting.

As I stated earlier, his work is complex but not closed or inaccessible.

The American expression "what you see is what you get" has, in relation to Jan Olyslager his work a very special meaning.



Who wants to follow him on his adventurous journey will not be cheated. Who looks at his most recent work will know that the quest has not yet been completed.

A finish is not yet achieved. It is as if the artist is more than previously aware of infinite space and the powerlessness that captures him while observing the cosmic movements.

The art of painting is his only defense.


John Sillevis,

Sept. 1, 2001