Kampen took a broad, open – minded view of the world, and image, language, narrative, and their transformation were the most important themes of his work. He had little interest in art dealers and thought that time spent in his studio was too precious to waste on PR and marketing. The only places where he periodically showed his work were WG Kunst (the exhibition space at Wilhelmina Gasthuis, a former hospital in Amsterdam) and his own studio. Kampen’s work is little represented in public collections. The monumental murals he did for the Cortile apartment complex in Amstelveen were recently restored but, sadly, his artwork for Amsterdam’s Olympic stadium was painted over not long ago. He produced commissions in cooperation with Galerie Maria Chailloux, which represented him and his work from 1991 to 2006. When Kampen unexpectedly died in May 2022, he was busy preparing for the Personal Landscapes & Living Rooms exhibition in the Wilhelmina Gasthuis, where he had lived and worked since 1984. It was here that he met his wife Lucy Sarneel, and here that the couple’s two daughters were born and brought up. Both Kampen and Sarneel studied at the Rietveld Academie: painting and graphic arts in his case, jewellery in hers.
Jelle Kampen knew a lot about art history, gave lectures on the subject, and drew on it in his work. He took inspiration from classic twentieth – century icons such as Matisse, Mondrian, Rousseau, Willink, and Dalí, and also from different sources such as DNA structures. His work is literally and figuratively layered, with a very distinctive signature and iconography that shows his power as a storyteller. He constantly challenges the viewer with his work. Over time, the clear pictures that he wanted to make at the beginning of his career evolved into magnified details that we don’t immediately read as figurative. They include human organs such as larynxes, and vertebrae and other bones, with brushes, fingers and fists used as sponges to create Rorschach – like effects. From 2012 onwards, Kampen’s work became more autobiographical. He translated his past and present into part abstract, part figurative images, and his fragile lungs and respiration became a part of his work. The visible form refers to things that we cannot see or point to without knowing the context, such as the self – portrait with pill strips as stylised forms.
Nobody could have guessed that Personal Landscapes & Living Rooms at WG Kunst in May 2022 would be Kampen’s farewell exhibition. Today, his oeuvre has become a part of the CODA collection, partly through purchases and partly as a gift by his daughters. As a result, it has become public property. ‘And that’s important, because Jelle Kampen is a multitalented, exciting artist, and his work needs to be shown to the world,’ says Carin Reinders. ‘His cutouts are so authentic, and his works on paper are a perfect fit for the CODA collection.’
Lucy Sarneel’s work is well represented in the collection of CODA Museum. In 2017 CODA held Private Territory in Public, then described as a mid – career exhibition because it was assumed that she would continue producing wonderful work for decades. Unfortunately Lucy passed away in 2020. The Soulmates exhibition takes place at CODA Museum from 8 October 2023 to 14 January 2024. It attests to a rare, aesthetic affinity between artists, visible even in their individual legacies.
SOULMATES—Jelle Kampen and Lucy Sarneel Exhibition
Date: 08.10.2023 – 14.01.2024
Museum Hours: 10:00 – 17:30
Location: CODA Museum – Vosselmanstraat 299, 7311 CL Apeldoorn, Netherlands