Volume 45, nr. 1
Author: Philippe Piguet
MUSHROOMS AND MORE
I always find it inspiring to have a glass of wine with some friends and discuss life in relation to art. It’s a subject you can ponder on endlessly. During these discussions I came to realise that some statements of artists have inadvertently become part of my way of thinking and play a role in my daily life.
Some of these statements are hard to ignore. Like Brancusi’s quotation: “What you do is not important. What really counts is the state of mind you departed from.” I do wonder every now and then what my state of mind is, but let’s not get into that here. However, permanent introspection is required!
Another example is a quotation of Willem de Kooning. In a radio interview for a Dutch public network he stated, while seated in a big American armchair in his studio, with a sketchbook on his lap and a piece of charcoal in his hand: “Here I can roam wonderfully in my personal landscape.” This statement is cut out for me!
It is exactly what I continually do: create harmonic surrounding for myself in which things start happening. In public life, too, I tend to create a protective sphere around myself by moving around inconspicuously.
I draw and that is literally what I do: nothing but drawing. To me, drawing is the chamber music of the visual arts. With my sketchbook and pencils I create my own world. I consider drawing as a very primary process: I love the directness of drawing, the way it reveals the decisions the artist makes. Impuls, instinct and intuition give meaning to the lines. I experience drawing as a very physical action: I almost rub graphite and pastel into the paper, a very direct way of working, aimed at creating a strong and clear picture.
I am attracted to the twilight zone between figuration and abstraction and abstract expressionism strongly appeals to me as well. What I see is bounded control.
Once started, I continue to work on my drawings for a considerable period of time, coming back to the drawings, making alterations and putting them aside again.
A variety of artists have influenced me and paved my way. I am continually trying to analyse what exactly it was (and is) that has this effect on me. This is an ongoing process.
I also feel a strong drive to go on with my research and experiments, trying to find my personal themes. But it works the way Cy Twombly once remarked: “When it comes, it comes.”
As student at the art academy St. Joost I worked as an intern at the ‘Ateliers 65’ in Haarlem, where I was coached by the famous Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys. He once said: “The work of an experimenting artist should reflect the changes that occurred in the way he experienced beauty during the previous years.” At the time I was far too young and too engaged in academic views to appreciate this, but later on I fully grasped its meaning. That was a decisive moment and it led to a total revolution in my work, which was not accepted by St. Joost, so I had to leave the academy. A few years later however, I resumed my studies at the art academy in Arnhem (ABK).
Constant Nieuwenhuys also pointed out that the ever increasing speed at which what he called ‘anti-styles’ were accepted, led to a freakish development of art in recent history. I had no history of myself at that point, but it stirred up many – sometimes confusing – thoughts. It took quite a few years, as I was busy supporting my family by working as a commercial illustrator, but at a certain point these statements really started having a strong influence on me.
My Mushroom series is the result of my fascination for mushrooms. Their colours, the fact that many are poisonous, their rapid growth and their transience: all these aspects captivate me. But most of all the elaborate form mushrooms take, is what made me choose this theme. In the Mushroom series, finding different angles and repetition have resulted in a range of enchanting drawings.
The Landscape series has a different background. At first I was inspired by gloomy and somewhat tragic locations, but gradually I applied constructive interventions and added colourful accents in order to evoke a glimmer of hope.
The series of small drawings originate from a number of sketches I made in my diary and my urge to ‘research by means of repetition’. I began to experiment with everal ssmall sizes and the adding of text, trying to find out how to transform words into pictures. During the research I also added instant photography to my drawings, in close cooperation with photographer Marilène Dubois.
In many of these drawings the Irish author Samuel Beckett is prominently present. His famous quote: “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new” deeply impressed me. I keep on reading and re-reading the work of this iconic writer, who stirred up something I pursue in my work. I find it hard to define exactly what it is, because it’s always a search in abstraction. Fact is, that I always come back to the same themes.