Tommy Raaijmakers, 1968

(Tilburg, The Netherlands)

Originally a musician, Tommy Raaijmakers made a full turn to the visual arts in 1994. Inspired by artists from different periods, he depicts the trivialities, sense and nonsense of present-day society as a subjective observer; alternatively socio-critical and confronting in a humorous way, or moving, provoking, grotesque, challenging, fantastical or flippant. But ostentatious all the time, and longing for attention.

Tommy’s early productive years are characterised mainly by the work of energetic artists that make use of vivid colours. Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Herman Brood and many graffiti and comic-book artists are his main sources of inspiration at the time. His fascination gradually turns to Picasso, Modigliani, Karel Appel and Corneille. While getting more and more engrossed in painting, also the impressionists and Renaissance masters are becoming important for his artistic development, and the imagery of former cultures like Maya and Inca and Egyptian and Polynesian culture will become very influential as well. And apart from culture and art there are the female aesthetics and the old and new media that are another main source of a continuous stream of new ideas.

Although his work has no moralistic tendencies it regularly gives proof of huge social involvement. Raaijmakers does not shun explicit images, whether or not complemented by text, in his attempts to arouse his public’s awareness.

The work of Raaijmakers shows many unique characteristics. His way of portrayal, for instance, varies per individual theme, but can be readily identified each time. In addition, his very self-willed approach gives proof of great affinity with the fiery heat and provocation of Graffiti, the naïveté of CoBrA, the tempestuous and unpredictable of Action Painting and Pop Art triviality. But still his work defies simple classification under these artistic trends. As for himself, Tommy prefers to label his work ‘Dirrty Pop’, with double-r, for being extra dirty. A somewhat grubby, grimy, yet titillating mix of the styles named above.

In 1997 Raaijmakers does his entrance examination for the Academy of Art of ’s-Hertogenbosch and he is admitted. The examining board finds his work ‘very forceful and authentic’. However, for fear of being robbed of his purity he decides not to enrol as a student after all.

In 2003 Tommy comes up with a plan for the municipality of his residence Waalwijk to set up a creative breeding-ground for young artists. The project generates substantial interest from the media and can best be described as a contemporary ‘polder’ version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Despite much enthusiasm on the part of the policymakers, realisation does not appear to be easy. However, after 3 years the green light is finally given in April 2006, with the municipality of Waalwijk making available a spacious, 1,600 sqm. (17,000 sqft) company building. It is here, amidst other young and promising artistic talent, that the artist’s studio is established.

In the 2007 ‘Artist of the Year’ election Tommy Raaijmakers receives an honourable mention as being one of the 25 most frequently recommended, non-nominated artists.

Due to his changed ambition, altered views and the growing urge to explore other facets of life, Tommy decides to take a temporary step back from art. The perfect opportunity arises in November 2011 when he’s invited to organize a final Art Sale Show in his birthplace Tilburg. In less than 2 weeks he nearly sells out all of his work. With the revenue partially being donated to charity.

It’s unclear if, how or when the artist will return with new material.

The paintings of Tommy Raaijmakers are highly valued by art lovers inside and outside the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, celebrities like Guus Meeuwis, Ali B, Yes-R and Wende Snijders already possess a ‘Tommy’. Corporate clients include AkzoNobel, Friesland-Campina and Charles Vögele.

May be continued.