Bedtime Stories will be Dutch painter Ralf Kokke’s first major solo exhibition with Hans Alf Gallery. The new series of works that makes up the show, represents a stylistic and substantial development in a new and quite radical direction compared to Kokke’s previous output.
As kids, our parents told us bedtime stories to comfort and shield us from the dark and scary night full of imaginary monsters, ghosts, and villains. The paintings in “Bedtime Stories” portray the heroes and heroines, princes and princesses of our childhood tales and dreams. Kokke’s recognizable style, which is characterized by a rare playfulness, a vibrant use of figurative elements, and a disregard for the classical rules of perspective, reminds us of religious and heroic icons from medieval times. His new works tell the tales of brave knights on their quest to slay dragons, damsels in distress, and heroes undertaking bold pilgrimages by sea.
Taking inspiration from his own dreams, Kokke strips them of any personal associations and puts them in a universal context that everybody, who sees his works, should be able to relate to. Thus, Kokke conjures up characters and settings that we all recognize – Rapunzel on the balcony, the princess and her handmaid, a sword-bearing merman – no matter where we grew up. By focusing on one single scene at a time and placing emphasis on the symbols that make the characters recognizable as heroes, monsters, or princesses, Kokke activates the memories of his audience, allowing us to project our own, personal interpretations of his tales, these bedtime stories, into the paintings.
By using a mixture of chalk paint and oil stick, Kokke creates a thick opaque paint that lets him focus on larger planes instead of the minuteness of small details. This makes the works appear flat, almost object-like, which further strengthens their perceived affinity to medieval icons.
Ralf Kokke is a graduate of The Royal Academy of Fine Art in Antwerp. He lives and works in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. In 2022 he was a finalist for The Royal Award for Modern Painting – the most prestigious painting prize in the Netherlands.
- Linda Köke, Art writer