True passion can never be restrained or suppressed. Although Adrian Vandenberg was long known to the world as a guitarist and composer in the rockbands Whitesnake and Vandenberg, he always remained loyal to his passion for drawing and painting. Swallowed up by intensive tours with his bands, that took him to all corners of the world, he still found the time and the opportunity to satisfy his need for visual expression in his few free hours. Although opportunities to draw and paint were limited to odd moments, his love of art was never entirely overshadowed by the time-consuming demands of his music.

Adrian Vandenberg belongs to that relatively small group of people with dual talents. In the Netherlands such people are seen as difficult to classify, and so regarded with suspicion. The prevailing wisdom is that one person cannot develop two talents at the same time. But that is only partially true. Vandenberg knows better than anyone that artistic abilities can be pushed to one side. After completing his education at the Academy of Arts in Arnhem in the early 1980s, the visual arts temporarily faded into the background to make way for a tempestuous music career. Only in 1998 did he finally decide to put art first and to concentrate upon expanding the body of work which until then had been building up gradually during “stolen” moments.

The drawings and paintings of Adrian Vandenberg are characterised by their impetuosity. It would seem obvious to ascribe the dynamism and tempo of his work to the hectic lifestyle which goes with being a celebrated guitarist. But the creative urge does not stand on its own. Social engagement is as much part of it as artistic inspiration. The artist has both feet firmly on the ground, and expresses this through lively and colourful compositions placed with panache on the paper or canvas.

Expression does not preclude reflection. As well as being a doer who enters into direct and impulsive dialogues with his subject matter, Vandenberg is also a thinker who responds to circumstances without restraint and yet with careful consideration. Naturally, specific events, personal and universal feelings, travel experiences and cherished memories infiltrate and are an integral part of his art. For the most part, this is done intuitively. Events sometimes do not emerge on paper or canvas until years later. But the delay between the actual incidents and their artistic treatment has no impact upon the vehemence and intensity of the creative process. Every line scratched from an oil stick, every powerful brushstroke betrays his uncontrollable need to express himself.

From his accomplished imagery and craftsmanship, it is tempting to conclude that Vandenberg is making up for lost time. He is impatient. His appetite for new images seems insatiable. But despite that impatience there is no sense of overkill or rush. The compositions are always carefully structured and, although representing the ultimate experience of freedom, never come off the rails. The artist does not overplay his hand. Based upon feeling and experience, he knows exactly how far he can go to achieve the maximum effect.

One striking and recurrent theme in the work of Adrian Vandenberg is duality. The world is split. People behave ambivalently. Ideas leap in different directions. Nothing is as changeable as situations, moods, weather, people. Vandenberg is intrigued by that fluctuation. He observes people and the conditions in which they exist. But at the same time he steps back far enough to be able to turn those observations into effective art incorporating actual perceptions and experiences without losing control over the final result.


Wim van der Beek, art critic.