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Jan Hein van Melis

How do I become a good Hedonist?

Jan-Hein van Melis often asks these kinds of delicious questions. He once applied the text ‘Can we finally make money?’ to a Wedgwood tureen, naturally in the only colour he uses as an artist: the orange that is called RAL 2009 according to the colour standard. It is the colour of the Dutch royal family, but also the colour used in snack bars and chip shops to promote such delicacies as hogweed, frikandel, kapsalon and patatje war. Popular Dutch snacks, equivalents of the Beelitzer Spargel, Spreewalder Gurke, Frankfurter Würstchen, Hamburg Läbkaus and Königsberger Klopse.

For many, orange is a difficult colour associated with the 1970s and materials such as Formica and polyester.  It was used for objects that were very trendy fifty years ago but are now so dated that they are offered as vintage. Van Melis uses this colour exclusively and loves all the connotations associated with it.  He not only painted crockery with it, but also used the colour to advertise and decorate his Dahlia Race Show.  In the 1990s, I participated: a remote control was pressed into my hands and I was allowed to choose a car to race against another player on an elaborate circuit. In that period, I was a member of a dahlia association, just like Geer Pouls, the inventor and then sole owner of Brutto Gusto. We looked after our own dahlia plants and were interested in everything to do with this wonderfully shaped and coloured flower. So also the Dahlia Race Show of Jan Hein van Melis. I do not remember winning, but I can still see the festive and cheerful competition in front of me and I still have the painted Wedgwood plate as a souvenir. 

Van Melis went further: he created his own world based on the label of the Italian beer brand Morena, which depicts a dark-haired beautiful woman. For her, he conceived a lingerie line, a nail studio, a dog kennel and also his own chip shop. All images are painted in orange and based on imagery used in advertising and on packaging: dogs, beer, snacks, nail polish bottles and wild bouquets. Things that make you happy, things to enjoy.

For Brutto Gusto, Van Melis switched from Wedgwood to KPM, from frikandel to Frankfurter. The answer to his question remains the same: enjoyment is for everyone but you have to do your best.

Piet de Jonge