I have known Jan Deckers for a number of years now, and the thing about him that fascinates me every time is his tremendous perceptional ability, incredibly wide expatiated depth in assimilation and his fast, confident artistic design and carrying out, in his music as well as in his expressive work. This accompanied with reliability without air which a rarity in the artistic crowd.
Someone who, like Jan, is dual-talented is rare, but it does exist. For example: Goethe in his superior way and Tomi Ungerer being a phenomenon in the 20th century. Expressive and literary combinations are actually much more common than expressive and musical, seeing that an expressively creative drive is more likely to be accompanied by a literary counterpart than by a musical one. Exactly this happening to Jan Deckers is a reference to the inner core of his art, in which a certain perception of art is reflected.
When looking at his paintings and drawings and while listening to his music one will notice that he gives each piece a character of its own, which can almost never be retrieved in earlier or later pieces. Someone may recognize the absence of a personal style in this, even more so because the artists of the past 150 years went through a tremendous amount of trouble to create a unique style, sometimes resulting in excessive paintings, sculptures and musical works of art, surely contributing to the blurring of the line between artistic and commercial efforts.
The absence of a personal style today does not refer to a lack thereof, but even more a submission to the object, an objective immanent style, an individuality of all things. Only from a distance, in a bird’s eye view, after a longer period of watching and listening, a dual artistic arrangement will then reveal itself again: on the one hand connecting all pieces of work by a way of looking at and listening to the creative individuality demanded by the object, on the other hand the creative style resulting from this. The artistic view concealed behind this, is a multi-polar one. Nothing, as expressed by Jan Decker’s pieces, nothing exists in a single objective way; everything exists from itself and in the ears and eyes of those listening and watching, concerning not only the original object but also the work of art. Now suddenly a distinct handwriting becomes visible, a design for the art of the 21st century.
In other words, Jan Decker’s paintings are, just by his way of creating them, like music turning visible – and making his music sound painted: sometimes in soft and gentle harmonic strokes, sometimes wild and raging, sometimes composed, sometimes humble, sometimes unruly and dominant, next full of doubt, but always typical: always Jan.
Alexander Hans Gusovius, Writer and Philosopher
As early as his childhood, Jan Deckers was introduced to music. The classical basis was laid by his first clarinet teacher, Hub Deitz, his first introduction to pop music through a band at elementary school. During that time he was also taking drumming lessons, and a friend showed him the first chords on a guitar. Playing the solo clarinet in the local brass band, and playing solo guitar in a regional band give him the additional experience, combined with a study classical guitar from Jan van Roosendaal (at the moment teacher classical guitar at the Kreuzberg/Berlin school of music) that led him to the Maastricht conservatory.
He develops a large interest in composing and improvising and the introduction to modern jazz (Jayeff) also broaden his musical horizon. His desire for adventure, combined with a strong Sturm und Drang period drove him to the former West-Berlin. Here the technique and art of improvisation is even further perfected by Gregoire Peters (at the moment teacher of saxophone at the jazz department at the Berlin University of Arts) and what follows is a decade full of performances with bands and ensembles of a most various make-up.
Together with Jan van Roosendaal, Simone Reifegerste (the voice) and Peter Jack, Blue Tunes for Night People is formed, an unplugged band in the eighties. Playing the clarinet for the gipsy orchestra Kasbek he is introduced to Klezmer and the music of the Balkans. He takes up a study of musical philosophy and becomes a teacher of classical guitar at the Tempelhof music school.In theatres he can be seen as the clarinet playing chef in the movie “Joan of Arc of Mongolia” with Gilian Scalici, Irm Herman, Peter Kern and Else Nabu (line 1) in a production by Ulrike Ottinger and R.W. Fassbinder’s crew. Like an outsider he goes at the Berlin jazz scene alone, quickly becoming the be bopping and hard bopping clarinetist. Arranging and orchestrating become daily activities, musical dialogs with Nicolaus Timm (Schaubühne) initiates guitar compositions in an experimental atmosphere. Together with students of composition of the Berlin and New York conservatories a program of avant-garde elements is created. With his clarinet he travels through Norway and Ireland as a street musician, he performs with Gioro Feidman and accompanies many Jewish weddings: slowly but surely forming the diverse palette of form, rhythm, harmony and melody he uses to paint his compositions.
His sources of inspiration are as diverse as the movements. Studying J.S. Bach’s composing technique for years, John Coltrane’s and Buddy de Franco’s improvising techniques, Joni Mitchell’s art of songwriting and a deep admiration for Egberto Gismonti’s versatility give a rough outline. His knowledge of the past leaves him standing firmly in the 21st century.
An expressive work of art is already present in the matter with which one begins. This statement from Michelangelo stands alone and puts to words one possibility to describe the birth of a work of art.
Different from his musical curriculum, Jan Deckers is completely self-taught as an expressive artist. Not until the age of twenty, the first lines and flats are made with pencil and brush. However, it does not take long before a way of composing is created, which can best be described as priming the base.
Layer after layer, very soft structures are created, which –at first independent from each other- then suddenly form unity and reveal a recognizable pattern, which will then be carefully completed.
The ways of priming are looked at from an experimental point of view. Layers of water colour are put in the shower so that a random pattern remains, paper already black will be given contours by rubbing out lines and flats, a toothbrush is put into a jar of acrylic paint and cleaned using a sieve….. Every time creating a priming with which work is continued.
Meeting Irish artist Liam Foster, who encourages him, and especially his friendship with German writer/philosopher Alexander Gusovius are his sources of inspiration, increasingly looking for new optic emotions.