Life and Art
Tjaarke Maas started to paint since her early childhood, in Tasmania, Australia, where her family had immigrated from Holland. At the age of 17 she came back to Europe and went to Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam**, and later continued her studies in New York, where she was introduced to the art of iconography, studying with iconographer Vladislav Andrejev, who wrote:/…/ Besides the beauty and artistic quality I see in each work of Tjaarke a profound meaning…. She manages to reunite in her paintings the elements of the spiritual and the material worlds… her research and her art can be identified as the spiritual philosophy./…/*** The Russian sacred art, literature and philosophy greatly influenced Tjaarke’s life and work. At the age of 18, she was married, and to support her family began to work, as a model, travelling extensively throughout Europe, visiting Japan and Australia. Influences, especially of Japanese wood prints, could be traced in Tjaarke’s etchings and paintings.
After 1996 she lived in Florence, Italy, where she was accepted into the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) She graduated from the Academy in 2003 with diploma cum laude and continued to paint intensively and to work on iconography. She combined writing about icons with studying the theology of the image — these forms the basis of her personal spiritual pursuit. At the same time, she also wrote poetry, prose and fairy-tales for children. She produced more than 500 artwork, consisting of paintings, etchings, drawings and sketches.
At age 26, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to cope with this illness for the rest of her life. A few years later, Tjaarke found refuge in the forests surrounding the Hermit Monastery of Saint Francis of Assisi (Eremo del Carcere) to continue her work on icons as commissioned by the priest Don Gino. Her death came about after the strong impact of her fall on one of the slopes of Subasio mountain, where she was found on 8 July 2004. In a small cave, where Tjaarke was dwelling, her work on the unfinished icon was found — it was an icon of the Transfiguration.
/…/ Artists are not ‘dying’ - they just move on from one studio to the other” so the artist Lev Meshberg writes about Tjaarke. /…/ Her talent was God’s given, she was in no pursuit of fame /…/ any stroke on canvas or wood constituted a true spiritual act /…/ She was a genuine born-to-be painter, a subtle draftsman, she was longing for harmony – with no hint of cheap tricks or vulgarity /…/ Her works were alive, pulsating, with the profound combination of the gift and intellect, which are the essence of the art./…/