Baukje Spaltro, a Dutch-Italian artist residing in the vibrant city of Amsterdam, began her journey as an artist with formal education in painting at the HKU (Utrecht, Netherlands) and the Accademia di Brera (Milan, Italy). However, her artistic evolution goes beyond academic realms, delving into the profound realm of the ‘sense of a place’ within European urban landscapes.
Since 2015, Spaltro has been crafting her magnum opus, the ‘City Spheres’ project. This ambitious venture is a testament to her fascination with the concept of ‘genius loci,’ inspired by the Roman idea of the spirit of a place and philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s musings. Through her painted installations, Spaltro redefines the city as a dynamic, self-constructed local society, where every street corner, alleyway, and neighborhood has a unique soul waiting to be unveiled.
What sets Spaltro’s work apart is her nuanced approach to color. The moment, the place, and the interplay of natural light become pivotal elements in her artistic arsenal. The result is a mesmerizing symphony of fluorescent and tonal colors that dance across her canvases, creating a visual language that speaks directly to the observer’s intuition.
In her own words, “Color unfolds the soul of a district.” This statement encapsulates the essence of Spaltro’s artistic philosophy. Her deliberate use of fluorescent surfaces disrupts conventional thinking, challenging viewers to engage in a more intuitive perception of their surroundings. The city, under her brush, transforms into a canvas of emotions, memories, and untold stories.
One of Spaltro’s notable works is the piece titled ‘Corso Lodi (Lodi Course),’ part of the ongoing ‘City Sphere Corvetto’ series (2022-2024). Executed on a 50×45 cm linen canvas, this artwork captures the essence of the entrance road to the Corvetto area in Milan, Italy. The juxtaposition of underlayer fluorescent acrylics and tonal oil paint creates a striking visual narrative. It unfolds the dichotomy of a district aspiring to become the greenest in Europe, overshadowed by the grim reality visible from its entrance road – a landscape dominated by demolished buildings, remnants of nature, and a maze of energy cables.
In ‘Bürgersteig number 1, Reichenbergerstraße sidewalk,’ a piece from the ‘City Sphere SO36’ series (2019-2022), Spaltro delves into the urban fabric of Kreuzberg, Berlin. The technique, consistent with her signature style, involves underlayer fluorescent acrylics and markers, overlaid with tonal oil paint on linen. The artwork, measuring 75×55 cm, brings to life the concept of a ‘platform for the citizens’ – a literal translation of ‘Bürgersteig’ in German. Through various iterations of this main street, Spaltro captures the illuminating and connecting role of the road in the SO36 district, emphasizing the integral role of urban spaces in fostering a sense of community.
Spaltro’s work is not just an exploration of urban landscapes; it’s a contemplation on the evolving relationship between individuals and their surroundings. Her spartan yet conversational tone allows her art to communicate directly with the observer, inviting them to reflect on the intricate tapestry of the city life often overlooked in the hustle and bustle.
As Baukje Spaltro continues to captivate art enthusiasts with her City Spheres project, she invites us to see beyond the concrete and steel, urging us to embrace the vibrant, pulsating heart that beats within the urban spaces we inhabit. Through her masterful use of color, she invites us to experience the soul of each district and, in doing so, discover a deeper connection with the cities we call home.