‘Belgium: the class of 2013’ artists: Leah Blits, Ann de Saedeleer, Charlotte van Renterghem, Evelynn Van Damme, Sara van Woerden location: WTC Art Gallery-The Hague
When we think of art in strange places we usually mean desolated spaces or places that function in non accordance to the arts prerequisites. This little gallery in a brand new centre of commerce is one of those strange places, to my eyes. But then, isn’t it what you make of what you’re given? The contrast of the scrappy paints and surfaces to the shiny surroundings and the outspoken, as well as noted in words, sense of grief and absence made me smile. Add to that a sense of uncertainty about the act of art-making itself, which I very much understand and even appreciate, and you have a small in volume exhibition with proof of talent at its start.
P.S. There is no need to praise the star and use the others as filling; not everything is a tv show (in case you read the press release)
Sixty artists in the old centre of The Hague warmly invite you to visit their ateliers on the weekend of 1 and 2 October 2011, from 11:00 to 17:00.
You can draw your own route using the free catalogue that you can pick up from the graphic arts atelier on Prinsengrach 16. You can also find the catalogue in many places in The Hague: libraries, cafes, shops etc.
It is no deception. Some people have a peculiar characteristic; the colour of their eyes changes, influenced by internal and external factors. The whole colour substance of a person changes according to its own situation and that of its environment. These are known things; however, this kind of colour that hangs between situations and that typifies a person temporarily draw my interest right after the black and white revelation. Colour as substance of its object-carrier became then the focus of observation. Then, like always when working in an idea, I could see people’s colour while we were talking or hand shaking; just as in other years I would mentally draw the shapes of their noses.
Most recently, red colour came to surface. It is a colour opposite to blue as difficulty. Blue color is easy to make shimmer just like the sea does. As paint it flows, as surface it is easily acceptable. On the contrary, one can practically see the elements of a painting suffocating under the pressure of the red colour, unless it is treated as an already erupted mass. Red colour must fall 100 percent in place; otherwise you have a mess instead of an image. As paint, it turns black easily because of its chemical basis, as surface it challenges the receptivity of our view. While painting with red, my eyes start burning after a couple of hours. Leaving the studio after a red session, I am almost blind.
After years of painting with primary colours, excluding earth colours, greys and very much the black, a shift happened to my perception of colour. Right after a series of paintings where colour had comfortably found its place, I saw that I did not need it anymore for showing the intensity of life as I perceived it. Black and white replaced then colour in my paintings with no loss of the actual feel of colour. To my eyes, colour was there; the black and white contained it effectively. The work produced in that time had achieved the happy form of being what it aimed to show. It was created in the intensity that it narrated, one canvas per day (of approx. 200x160cm), or 2-3 papers, approx. four hours of sleep, no life other than in painting.
A year black and white (1998-1999) would be the title of an exhibition and of a book that I wanted to make. In the end, the total of this work was never shown all together. A part was exhibited under the NOT FOR SALE project of the gaidaro group, another part at the Regentenkamer in The Hague. There was a proposal to show it in Brussels but I did not persevere, thus it never happened. It was interesting that some thought of it as a disaster in my path; others put it in the all time favourites. For me it is always a reference point.
Colour came back to my work later, under new conditions (to be explained later).
On a summery morning of June, back in 2003 in Brussels, with the back window open, looking to a concrete terrace of some kind of underrated school and further at a distance to the train station Midi/Zuid, I saw a bird coming towards me. It flew right over my head and into the room/studio to the big double room with the arch, our living room. The bird decided to stay with us; both Koert and I were so happy to have this little friend around. It was climbing from our shoulders to our heads, chirping and making happy little gestures. We were feeding her as a baby, because a baby she was. It lasted three days. The morning that I found her dead I cried so much as if I was crying for all the cats I had buried in my life and all the people that I would never meet again.
Getting older, looking back, one expects to contemplate on past phases, places, houses; whatever sticks to memory. It is very common to use the word memory and memory content – personal or public – for producing art. However, the word itself has taken other connotations be it from technology, be it from cheap entertainment. Besides, you can now buy memory, literally, since you can put in there things you have documented and you want to keep. That is memory in fact; what you want to keep, because all the rest goes to other places and is recalled only under special circumstances. Then, linking memory with the passing of time as a theme is a fatal risk; unless you are called Proust or Shakespeare, who by the way burnt the image of a skull for everyone following. Maybe only philosophy can save the theme from slipping to kitschy works. But then kitsch can also be happily admired, however this artistic vision has also passed to memory already. To my understanding everything depicts the passing of time, because we, the spectators, are the carriers of time. When time stops either we are in love either dead (in both cases little we care about art).
Luckily, the dead don’t care about memory, neither for the passing of time; none of the two concerns them. But, what about the tail? The tail is a privilege of the ones closer to their dead phase. Like experience, it adds up, or like a collection of lived behaviours, at some point it is complete. Our personal tail is complete when we are added as a knot to someone else’s tail; after a friend, a father, a cat, a bird, all those who have passed that person’s life and are now dead. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected through our tails. In fact, we form a huge net in space offered by our dead. At the idea of this drape, I smile.
Last Saturday, 18 September, we had an intense session of mingling with colors and children, assisting them with painting with brushes and real paint (!), sometimes for their first time. We were lucky with the weather that allowed us to work outside on the pavement, in front of the windows of the geborgen kamers. It was Koert’s idea (and preparation) to fill up the place with cut out wooden elephants (some 15 of them), which attracted the attention of the neighborhood’s children. The result is exhibited in the space of the geborgen kamers at Ambachtsgaarde 6. For a while, the elephants can be viewed from the window. Big thanks to the ‘wijkberaad’ of Vrederust which invited us to do the workshop, during the year’s ‘feestje’.
Walked in the Turbine hall of the Tate modern under sounds of a personally lived music time. Had to go up and down the stairs to be able to find a place to stand from where I could see the performance. Deep down in the hall, with simple slow movements, the choreography unravelled a sense of communication and continuation as well as a projection of the lines of the environment, including building and people. The voice of David Bowie and the imposing sounds of his music deepened the space even more and by doing so dragged along the non performing audience as well. Oh yes, there was performing audience!
The project of the Michael Clark company spread in the summer months – displayed as a live artwork – presented open rehearsals there in the turbine hall and involved more than 70 persons of the audience who were taught during this period and performed together with the dancers of the group at the final shows.
I find it superb the fact that more and more art projects look at art with an inclusive mind and the thought of involving rather than excelling alone. The idea of direct contact with the non-skilled in a specific field and the elevation of all through the extra effort of the skilled and the non-skilled together, is certainly not new; however, it is becoming more eminent now as a back wave to the ones who entrenched the artists’ professional activities with arrogance and fear and called that ‘a career’. That is the job that mostly art administrators learned to do (see Arno van Roosmalen, director of stroom den haag), encouraged by the curators era which is already fading away. The Internet world has opened a path of openness and accessibility; the real creators of our times and those who support them know to which door they turn their back and on which path they can walk in good company.
Only recently I realised the connection between the beatniks and the great Louis Ferdinand Céline. Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs admired him to bits and went to meet him in his self exile in France; don’t know if they managed, rather doubt it. I read the beatniks in my teenage years; Céline in my forties. Looking back, I say once more: sometime, the self admiring professionals – in the arts – should shut up and dare to face their naked self. After all, that is the truth of art; the rest is decoration.
‘The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows.
And maybe it’s treacherous old age coming on, threatening the worst. Not much music left inside us for life to dance to. Our youth has gone to the ends of the earth to die in the silence of the truth. And where, I ask you, can a man escape to, when he hasn’t enough madness left inside him? The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death. You have to choose : death or lies. I’ve never been able to kill myself.’
extract from the ‘Journey to the end of the night’ by L.F.Céline
Coming back from a short visit to Madrid, I found a two pages letter from the director of Stroom, Arno van Roosmalen. What a relief! I appreciate his effort to make me understand what Stroom is there for. Slaloming through the words explaining that Stroom is an independent arts center assigned by the city of The Hague to manage the art matters of the city; making clear that artists are recognised or un-recognised as professionals according to criteria that have to do with public achievements, namely sales, subsidies, interviews; and making more than clear that if you work outside the clique, and go ahead to organise your own projects involving other artists, it does not count as involvement in the arts, it is rather for amateurs and hobbyists. In brief, indie can not exist in The Hague. The more he wrote, the more I realised I really have nothing to do with them. Their values are good for “yes master” artists. The only problem remains, and on that Mr. van Roosmalen had nothing to say, that Stroom is a monopoly. Artists outside stroom cannnot rent a municipal low cost atelier, cannot get support for their exhibitions, can hardly participate in stroom subsidised group exhibitions, etc. That is where my anger focuses; otherwise, of course a stichting can hire and fire as it wishes. I will continue picketing but light hearted from now on. Next one to bother is the ‘cultuurwethouder’ of The Hague.
The unimportance of Stroom stroke me already in the airplane. And then a real city bathed us in sounds of liveliness and struggle/fun (yes, simultaneously). What we saw in Madrid was so uplifting! You know, the big masters are hanged in the museums like eternal martyrs, prickling the people to bring out their best and even more reminding the artists that the goal is still there. Any aim, any comparison and any lesson to be learned stands there. The more you see the more you understand.
Thank you Madrid; once again you filled my lungs with the full air of the city and un-dusted me from the provincialism that sticks on my clothes together with the dampness of The Hague.
The Kunstvlaai 2010 ran its last day on Sunday 24 May, in a striking contrast between the warm sunny day and the dark robo-futuristic exhibits. The most impressive constructions and rather the majority of the exhibits asked for confrontation under means of disintegration and disfiguration. However, the congestion of loud works in limited space worsened my ability to hear or see anything above a certain frequency. Instead of attracting my interest, they sent me off to search for something else. Luckily this something else was there to be seen.
I note three “kiosks” that stood out:
The ‘Home Flight’ by the Finnish Saara Vallineva, on the transit home place, an issue more present than we think. The detailed way in which the piece is worked out places it into space with gravity.
The works of students of the Sandberg Institute /applied arts which are praise to craftsmanship of high artistic level: Lida Krul, Ulrike Rehm, Elana Goray, Apostolos Ntelakos, Anders Gydum and Arthur de Vries.
The absolute low tech potato installation by Tan Bartnitzki and Waldemar Sulewski; though just a raw idea, it said exactly what it was.