Karin Bos (E)


A writer has the time to tell a story. He can slowly build it up spread over x number of pages. Within the context of a book the characters are able to take shape. He can, through the use of foreshadowing and other literary mechanisms, work towards a particular goal, to a particular climax or anticlimax. A film director also has the same advantage of time. He has got ninety minutes to create an exciting story.
An artist needing to tell a story is condemned to use one dimension: a piece of canvas or a sheet of paper. On this everything has to happen. On this the space must be coloured in, on this the action has to take place, on this the people have to be given character.
Karin Bos (1966) has this talent. She knows how to cope with this so-called limitation and sometimes even to use it to her advantage. A good example of this is a painting from 2005 and four small drawings from 2006. The series is called ‘Slightly creepy camping site’, the title alone arouses curiosity. What is immediately striking is the use of colour. While the pictures are practically the same she manages to create different atmospheres by executing them in different colours and colour combinations. The degree of creepiness differs from work to work. Because she has taken the opportunity in the painting to lay layers of paint over each other, the story appears to have more dimensions here. The central picture is likewise striking. A young girl in a rather strange pose in an open tent. She is looking out at a sort of canoe. The shadow of the tent falls over the canoe in the tranquil water. What is going on here? What has happened? What is a child doing on an apparently deserted island? The artist only provides the ingredients, but it is then easy for the creative viewer to set to work.
There is something similar with two other works from 2004 and 2005, ‘Lumberjack Girl’. An innocent girl stands with her back to the viewer. Wearing a short, child’s dress. She is looking into the diffusely painted distance. At a hut? At a wood? Actually at people? In the one version she has more shadows than she could produce herself. She is gripping an axe behind her back. This contrasts with her innocence. What is going to happen here? What is afoot here? In a more recent series of works, ‘Spy-glasses’ from 2007 and 2008, this contrast between action and surroundings has been developed in a different way. A sketchily painted young man on his knees is looking through a spy-glass, surrounded by a dark landscape. What is he looking at? How can he see anything? Where is he? Why is he lit up when his surroundings are enveloped in darkness? In another work three naked girls are standing, partially concealed under an almost fairy-tale leaf canopy each looking in a different direction through a spy-glass. As a viewer, what should I think about this? Why do I therefore think an awful lot of it?
In many works it is mainly people who represent the story. Karin Bos, however, has also made paintings in which no person appears and which still manage to thrust a story upon you. The new series of ‘Slightly creepy camping site’ from 2007 and 2008 for example. These only show caravans or holiday cottages in a wood. It is again the colours which to a large degree create the unease. But there is more to it. The way in which the temporary accommodation has been located in the space, the peculiar shadows, the half-bare trees and the unusual emptiness of the immediate vicinity suggest that people are hiding somewhere or that they have only just left the scene (of battle).

It is difficult to say precisely how Bos succeeds in telling the stories that you want to see, the outcome of which you want to know. I think that her way of painting and drawing plays a significant role in this. Karin Bos is not someone for perfect technique, she is not an artist who rhapsodizes at the mere sniff of paint. She has a somewhat awkward, guileless style. It is this unfinished style, as well as the unfinished content, that sets up the suggestion. And suggestion is still the best weapon to tell a story. For that you do not need hundreds of pages or dozens of minutes of celluloid.


Translation Jane Hall