Born 1992 BirthEmmen, Netherlands.
Lives and works in HomeEmmen, Netherlands.

Art Movement Toyism
1992 – Present
“Once upon a time, in an Emmen, Netherlands basement, an art movement named “Toyism” was born from one Mother and many fathers.” Doesn’t that sound like a good story starter? Actually, the time was 1992, Mother is an inanimate object and the fathers may be male or female – but none of these facts detract from the good story part. Here, just listen …

Toyism came about partly as a countermeasure to two decades’ worth of that which might be construed as an increasing “anything goes” Post-Modern individualism. The 1970s-1990s environment, that fostered works such as a fleck of human faces on a piece of paper, was long on sensation but often short on traditional skills. Fittingly, Toyism was born in the Netherlands where the time-honored craft of painting never quite went out of fashion.

Dejo (not his real name), a visual artist and musician living in Emmen, wrote a manifesto and, together with two other visual artists, introduced Toyism to the Dutch public. In years since, the Toyists – whose membership fluctuates – have averaged two shows per year at venues around the globe.

Moeder, which is Dutch for “mother,” is the manifesto of the Toyists. Mother’s contents are known only to the ten current Toyists, one Toyist emeritus and the notary public who affixed his seal to Mother on April 23, 1993 in Emmen. Do we need to know Mother’s contents? We don’t. All that is important is that we know three things.

1. Mother provides a framework for creation
2. Every Toyist’s creation is embraced as a new flirtation for Mother.
3. Mother was revised in October of 2002 in order to attract younger artists to Toyism.

Who are the Toyists?
Upon joining the group, each Toyist selects a pseudonym that must begin with a letter of the alphabet not already in use by another Toyist. After this point, and regardless of how one signs his or her rent checks, the artist signs all works with the chosen pseudonym. Why? It’s a collective, you see. It’s faceless. We fans of Toyism are not meant to single out John Q. Famous Artist or Jane Dough, Media Darling.

As of this writing, the Toyists consist of nine artists living on four continents. Four of the nine members are female, which is physical proof that the movement means what it says about being inclusive. Seven of the Toyists have had traditional art school training; the other two are autodidacts or self-taught.

What are the key characteristics of Toyist art?
• All works are narrative, meaning, as is so often said, that “every picture tells a story.”
• All works are figurative, meaning they depict recognizable objects as opposed to abstractions.
• There are distinct outlines in Toyist compositions. Lines of contrasting color, rows of dots and even bands of color containing dots around objects are prevalent.
• Colors are bold and distinct from one another, not blended.
• Deceptively simple looking at times, Toyist works are not dashed off. They are, rather, heavy on skillful painting technique and craftsmanship.
• Themes chosen are common to the human condition. Work, eat, sleep (perchance to dream – there’s more than a tinge of the surreal going on here), play, procreate and please, do enjoy life and nature while you’re about these things.
• Cheery and humorous as its art appears, Toyism is a serious style that, upon closer inspection, often deals with subject matter that may be anything but cheery or humorous.

P.S. You might be a Toyist, if …
The group is certainly open to new members and will, seemingly, be limited to 26 before no more pseudonyms can be assumed. First step in the process is contacting the Toyism Studio to express interest. Go ahead and write if this sounds like your style. Life is short.

Shelley Esaak