Neline Willems lives in Bergen. She works in a historic studio that was built in this village in 1920. Artists such as Gestel, Kouwenaar, Constant, Weyand and Sax worked here. After the building had been used by the house painters Hoogland and Kamp as their workshop for many years, the studio regained its original function in 2002.


No distinct realism can be seen in her paintings, which, for the most part, seem more like landscapes, but instead are an expression of the soul. This realm of the imagination can be characterised as between dream and reality.

The development of her own distinct style does not possess any form of methodology. Her impulses are activated by impressions of all kinds, indeed, after a period of reflection and processing.


My work originates from what I would paradoxically like to call an effortless labour. I start intuitively without a predetermined plan, so that I experience everything that I make as a voyage of discovery. After a painting is completed, it frequently appears to be the reflection of recent impressions and experiences. Primarily, I allow myself to be lead by my feelings, so that the dynamics of society are arranged and imparted to the canvas. The painted images which arise from the spirit as well as from society appear to be separated from each other. They form a chain of impressions and experiences for me. In this way I seek out the tension between what can be expressed and what cannot be expressed in words. Because to me, ultimately, this wordless expression is the essence of visual arts.

During the process of painting, I allow myself to be lead by the possibilities of the materials that I have chosen, and by the feelings and ideas that arise from them. Forms develop, which are either recognisable or not, or a combination of both, bringing tension or even harmony. Contrasts such as flat and deep, content and form, abstract and tangible ultimately become a fascinating entity for me. In my work, colour, as well as the other aspects of form, light, movement and space, is used intuitively. The appearance of different layers arises from the use of different materials, thus allowing me to express a certain depth and sensitivity. Since I do not bind myself to any particular theme or colour scheme, my work gives me the experience of complete freedom and purpose. At the same time, it is an adventure that poses more questions than that it answers, just as my experience of life does. Art that seems to have been made entirely for aesthetic pleasure is not in any way the point of departure of my work. Because I realise that reality does not consist entirely of what is before you, what imposes itself upon you, or of what you can touch. My perception of reality takes the form of a long search for what takes place in and outside myself.


Reaction to an exposition of her work

“After having entered the bright gallery, we see the paintings of Neline, large and small in format, exuberant and intimate, abstract and tangible worlds. Because Neline has made it difficult for us, and not easy for herself, it takes some effort to cross the threshold into her world. The spontaneous hospitality of the artist is otherwise changed in her work into a serious search for a certain something, for harmony, light and “it”. I see a folding screen close to the entrance. It is a visiting card, most certainly an object that conceals and exposes, just like her paintings do. Do we look inwards or outwards? A view of a landscape, a space that leads to something mysterious, the explosions of light in other paintings, the apparently more accessible work, the parapets as a fortress that we see reappearing everywhere in her work. This indicates to me that we will long continue to enjoy the efforts of this versatile, searching artist.”

Jan de Smet, art collector


Reaction to an exposition of her work “La Donna”.

“In this work from 2004, Neline exposes her most vulnerable side. We see a delicate woman leaving a room, passing though a door and hesitating to cross over a field on the way to another welcoming space. Blue irises dominate the field. Enormously high. And the separate flowers of the irises can be seen as predatory birds, perhaps even as Phoenixes, that, in the innocent landscape, with flapping wings, search for prey: Will the woman make it to the other side of the field? The woman has already put on a protective mask/burqa to aid her in repelling the possible attacks. Rather than protecting her, the mask seems instead to illustrate her vulnerability. Danger hangs in the air...”

Tobias Woldendorp, consultant / publicist

Gerrit in ’t Hout, former staff member, Cultural Council Noord-Holland.

Collette Noël, art historian, publicist