Variations on a Painting shows a series of paintings derived from the three versions of Fifteen Sunflowers in a Vase Vincent Van Gogh painted in 1888 and 1889. The fact that there is more than one version of the original work gave Van Riessen a lot of freedom; there is no definite variant of any of the flowers. The basic structure of his composition is maintained throughout. Within this framework he let his imagination run free.
When Vincent Van Gogh painted the sunflowers, he made them come alive as dolls. It is impossible not to see expressions of amazement, dismay and weariness in their posture. Van Riessen says “I started to draw what I could see, just looking at these paintings. On different days, different forms appeared. I saw bats, jellyfish, veins and balloons and they interacted and triggered all sorts of further associations. One painting encompasses manifold images in the mind of whoever looks at it”.
Every flower in the vase has an expression of its own, but it also plays a part in how the bouquet as a whole comes about. Van Riessen tends to look at the bouquets as faces expressing a variety of emotions simultaneously. There is also a link to musical counterpoint, where different voices create a single piece of music. The bouquets can be read metonymically, as portraits of various states of mind. A state of mind, like a bouquet, is build out of all sorts of impressions and sensations. “This way of perceiving the works would connect the works to the main theme of my work, self-portraiture. The series of bouquets invoke a sense of closeness to me; they don’t feel any different from the self- portraits I have made in the past”.