On abstraction: two pieces (1995/2005)
The core issue of modern painting has always been ‘abstraction’; even before 1911, when Kandinsky painted the first actual abstract images. The process already started around the 2nd half of 19th century, when painters became increasingly involved in issues of the painterly means, as opposed to those of objective representation, and the predominance of a period style was gradually superseded by a plurality of individual schools, called the ‘isms’. For the sake of the picture composition, painters took the freedom to change colour and shape of the referenced object, and it was only a matter of time, before this freedom took a life of her own, and a referenced object was no longer needed. However with the elimination of the referenced object, the whole abstraction process became somewhat meaningless; indeed where there is no referenced object, there can neither be something abstracted from it. The so called ‘abstract paintings’ of the first period either failed in being truely abstract, by still vaguely evoking objective figuration, via the use of organic forms and spacial perspective, or otherwise ran the risk of becoming merely decorative objects; while the artist tried to compensate the lack of meaning, by refering to an ‘inner necessity’, that remained to be proven. It was actually Mondrian, who found a way forward, by fully renewing the concept of panel painting; in 1921 he created his ‘Composition in red, yellow, blue and black’, an image showing rectangular shapes in the basic colours red, yellow, blue and black, arranged within a grid of horizontal and vertical black stripes. This painting neither had any relationship with the objective world, nor was it a merely decorative object; in fact it introduced a change of paradigm to the medium of painting, by demonstrating the full autonomy of the relations of colour and shape. In 1924 the painter Theo van Doesburg introduced the term ‘concrete art’, to label a form of art, that relies on geometric foundations, as opposed to ‘abstract art’, which still abstracts from the objective world. This having said, my own work has always been concerned with the gap inbetween the ‘abstract’ approach on one side, and the ‘concrete’ one on the other. In fact these categories do not merely indicate different artistic strategies, but even different behaviours of viewing. With the abstract image, the question is always what it relates to, while with the concrete one, it is how it is constructed. I am not particularly interested in either of these questions; the primary question that I am concerned with, is how to approach to the image as a viewer; having in mind, that the intelligent viewer not only views the image itself, but even the act of viewing; in the same way as the artist not only creates the image, but even the act of creation. The first one of two examples you can see here, dated from 1995, entitled ‘After the storm’, painted in acryle on canvas, remains obviously tied to the objective world; while introducing some initial elements of abstraction, such as a reduced colour set, the omitting of details, and a predominance of composition over objectivity. The other one, a papercut on fiberboard, entitled ‘Fragmentation‘, dated from 2005, is using the former image as a reference point, but thereby geometricizing and rearranging its pictorial elements, outside of the figurative context. I am not confident whether the second image could reveal its representational reference to the viewer, even without the possibility of a comparison to the first one; however my objective was, to carry the process of geometric abstraction to the limit, where the object of reference is completely eliminated, and all that remains, is the idea of a no longer comprehensible objective reference as such.