Present of the Future (E)

A group exhibition is a strange phenomenon.
If there are a lot of works by a lot of artists to be seen, then a requirement for structuring comes into effect. It is usually the curator who takes care of this, for example by choosing in advance to go for the chronological approach or for a particular theme. If this is not the case then it is up to the viewer to look for opportunities to get a grip on it, to create order out of chaos.
For a small group exhibition such as this – 5 artists, two of whom are acting as one – this requirement does not arise.
Or so I thought.
This is also why I chose a neutral title: ‘The Present of the Future’. This simply serves to illustrate the actual communality of the participants. They have training at the Amsterdamse Rijksakademie in common and they are standing on the threshold of what will no doubt be promising careers.
However, I gradually discovered that even this small exhibition developed its own dynamics. Comparisons forced their way forward, connections wanted to show themselves, similarities refused to be stifled. Not because I had been subconsciously looking for them at the selection or because I had searched for them afterwards, But because the dominant presence of the works demand it themselves.

Space plays a significant role in the video works of Margit Lukács (1973) and Persijn Broersen (1974). In ‘Prime Time Paradise’ from 2004 they have used existing television images. They are strung together into one great progression. The one image looks for a natural way out to the next. The spaces between the images not only provide depth but also an extra dimension to images that are familiar to every viewer and because of this lose more and more of their content and meaning. Because Broersen & Lukács link them to each other as a continuous story, as viewer, you start to see them in a different, a new way. Details that you would never have noticed previously are now obvious. Emotions that would have escaped you on the television are now revealed. The spaces between the images also have a major influence on the rhythm of the work and on the success of a suggestive and thus effective story line. Just as how in poetry the white sections are partially responsible for the power of a poem. Just as how the words crossed out in a story ultimately have a positive effect on its quality.
In two other works – ‘The Broersen Family’ from 2007 and ‘Raise High the Roof Beam’ from 2008 – the spaces between the images are also more important than you would think at first sight. The first work, a 4 channel installation, gives a portrait of the Broersen family. Plain, genuine people in ordinary, unpretentious surroundings. The transitions between the various conversations, the sections of black that every now and again allow a ‘gap’ to arise, endow what is actually an almost journalistic, documentary story with an enormous, emotional overtone. This effect is reinforced still further since, as viewer, you are surrounded by the video portrait. You are absorbed into it without losing your identity as outsider. ‘Raise High’ relates the history of the (Eastern European) Lukács family in the form of a number of conversations with Margit’s father. Here the spaces between the images are largely taken up with dark, framed, handwritten texts. Presumably fragments from a diary. These ‘intermissions’ provide the almost casual conversation with an emotional undertone. They give it cohesion and turn the conversation into a compelling story.
Wafae Ahalouch (1978) paints stories; however, both this way of painting and these stories back off from traditional conventions. In principle her stories hark back to fairy tales, to brief, literally fantastic narratives, often with a cruel undertone. Ahalouch supplements the cruelty with eroticism and sometimes with engagement and conceals all these aspects underneath a romantic exterior. At first she did that chiefly on large canvases. She set the story up using subdued colours and visible pencil strokes. Spatially with a great deal of three-dimensional effect. Over this she laid a transparent, off-white layer. Like theatre curtains or a veil. In this way she created a high degree of mystery. Above all she forced the viewer to look in stages. The works give a first, general impression, but it is only when looked at more closely that the venom or the erotic undertones reveal themselves. For the last two years she has chosen a seemingly more explicit, but particularly a more three-dimensional form. She now tells her story in thick, black outlines on backgrounds going from white to grey, like an enlarged colouring-in picture. She paints part of it directly onto the wall. She paints other parts – detail scenes or parts of a scene – onto panels of varying sizes. These she places against the wall or in the room. As if they are pieces of decoration. In fact she creates spaces where the viewer can indulge his imagination. He can forge together the various parts of the work in his own manner. He determines the story lines. In the end it is his story, his version of the fairy tale.
Ahalouch was born in Morocco but because she has grown up in the Netherlands, she feels no need for her origins to play any great role in her work. Unlike Marcel Pinas (1971). He comes from the Marowijne district in Suriname. The culture of that area, the N’dyuka, is constantly under threat of being lost. The civil war that raged in the nineteen-eighties seems to have wiped out the last remnants. He sees it as his duty to ensure there is a renaissance. There will therefore always be elements that characterize this culture under threat appearing in his work. Most striking is the Afaka script, 56 characters that the N’dyuka used among themselves. However his paintings feature more references that can be read as culturally defined. Warm colours, geometric patterns that refer to traditional woodcarving, references to totems, items such as pieces of Pangi fabric that have been incorporated, etc. The fact that in recent years his work has become more spatial seems logical. More than many others, in his youth he physically experienced the nature of space. Above all, in his installations he manages to find a connection to international developments, without having to make any concessions to his principles. These three-dimensional works are sometimes bulky objects, cupboards for example, filled with spoons or other domestic utensils. In other examples Pinas takes over an entire room not only by placing decorated utensils in it, for example bottles wrapped in colourful fabrics, but also hanging all sorts of objects up in it, such as hammocks and lanterns. Because it is almost impossible to physically go into his installations, he appears to want to force the viewer to stand and admire it.
With his (often large) works on location in Suriname he does not create this distance. On the contrary, he feels it is important here for the ‘ordinary’ people to understand what they are about, for them to acknowledge the emotions they keep hidden within themselves and so become aware of the importance of their own culture.
Micha Patiniott (1972) paints ‘small’ subjects in a free and expressionistic manner. People, things or events that play a role in his daily life. In principle, he does this figuratively but detached from reality. He hones in on this with almost satanic satisfaction. He exaggerates the reality to make features appear absurd or at least open to humour. He makes a dog with long ears into an animal airplane, from a self-portrait he makes a pale, shy, bowed head underneath which a colourful shirt screams for attention, from a grand piano keyboard he makes a sort of extendable table that has to be content with three keys.
Music forms the background sounds to his work. In a number of cases he makes musical instruments, sheet music or sound recording media the theme for his paintings. More remarkable, however, is that he interprets the language of the music onto his canvases. Because he plays in bands, he knows how important the silences are in music, the moments at which compositions can catch their breath in order to be able to continue at full force afterwards, the moments at which the listener is allowed to be submerged in thought in order to be able to give full attention afterwards. These spaces, these liberating ‘gaps’, are to be found in the blank areas in his paintings. These are consequently identifiable in many ways. They can also be found in the distance that Patiniott creates between reality and non-reality. What at first sight appears to be a polished illustration of something that exists, appears on further inspection to leave all sorts of room for interpretation. The painter offers the viewer the opportunity to lose himself in his work, as the composer gives the listener the chance to allow his own thoughts to take flight and wander.

Five different artists coming from five different cultures appear to have all sorts of things in common. To what extent their communal training at the Amsterdamse Rijksakademie, plays or has played a part in this, remains, for the moment, an open question.

Amsterdam, Brooklyn 2008.

Translated by Jane Hall