The written word is also an image. Words can be much more than the expression of a thought: some people agree with Herman Hesse and see them as ‘the soul, the vibrating infinite self in the finite’. All the artists featured in this exhibition incorporate text in their work – in an entirely natural and integrated fashion. Text and image come together to convey the message of the creator. The text becomes a new image within the work: it operates as an independent element within the whole and is not inserted to re-explain the image in words. In all the works in this exhibition a new space emerges between text and image – which gives the work added eloquence and invites the viewer to delve into his own imagination and mindset.
Daniele Buetti, Lalla Essaydi, John Isaacs, Pedro Bakker and Michael Scoggins convey their concern about what is happening in the world, each in their own way. John Biesheuvel, David Kramer and Enrique Marty stay close to home. The texts by John Biesheuvel invite the viewer to reflect on universal themes such as love, life and death. They are combined with elements from nature, such as differently shaped leaves and fungi, and read as modern-day vanitas symbols. David Kramer draws his subject matter from personal experience. Fairly extensive texts about his life and art appear in antiquated script within the drawings which combine thoughts and reflections with images of, amongst others, naked (often masturbating) women and coffee, beer and whisky. The outcome is a stark and – sometimes – excruciatingly honest testimony to the daily struggle for survival.
Enrique Marty finds inspiration in the concept of ‘family’; as everyone knows, a rich source of love, but also of stark contradictions, misery, hate and pain. Marty’s work straddles the extremes of family stories. Violence and sadism are as much central themes as in the ancient classical myths in which Cronos devours his children ‘the Titans’ and Oedipus murders his father. Marty exposes the rawness lurking beneath the surface in every family.
The works of Michael Scoggins are totally different in character. At first they look like pages from the exercise book of an eight-year-old child, but when you read that the author has just been thrown out by his girlfriend you realise they were written by an adult. They also feature fantasised childhood heroes like ‘Volcano Man’ complete with descriptions of his weapons and all the feats he can achieve, or the ‘American Super-Soldier’ and his attributes. The more you look at these works the sharper the undertones of social criticism become. The ostensibly innocent scribbles and drawings are a vehicle for far less innocent themes of mass and individual violence, war, terrorism and unhappiness in love.
The cynicism conveyed by Pedro Bakker is inspired by the philosopher Kierkegaard. The drawings of King Honey are almost happy, like the illustrations in a children’s picture book. The king appears in all sorts of situations (raiding the honey jar) accompanied by a short rhyme saying that he eats healthy food and weighs only fifty pounds. A series of three drawings shows him snoring and almost falling down the loo with his trousers around his ankles. The male genitals and the cow’s head in the ‘cow’ drawings form an unmistakable pictorial rhyme for the udders of the nearby cows. The theme of ‘power’ is exposed in an unequivocal but playful and light-hearted way.
Humour is similarly present in the work of John Isaacs, despite the blatant moralistic finger-pointing. Images of obese men and masses of almost abstract fat that obscure the shape of the human anatomy remind us of the fact that while one half of the world is dieting the other half is starving. Isaacs uses his own head, hands and feet as models for his images. Thus the – still lean – artist visualises the possibility of his own ‘decay’ in a cynical but witty manner.
Awareness of global trends pervades the work of Daniele Buetti. Time and again Buetti combines pictures from glossy magazines with starkly contrasting personal thoughts and questions and thus explores a world which is constantly communicating the promise of beauty and success. We read: Could a dream be enough? Will I ask for help? Is life worth living? But also: Do I find myself saying things that I don’t mean? He writes across the pictures of models by, for example, ‘tattooing’ the names of famous fashion houses on the limbs and faces.
Moroccan-born Lalla Essaydi combines text and image from a totally different background. She uses the art of calligraphy, which is practised by Moslem men, in combination with the art of henna, which is practised by Moslem women, to describe the clothing and living space of women. She creates – as it were – a new trans-border space. The photos were taken in an empty house in Morocco, where she was made to stay alone as a child when being punished. The texts are personal thoughts and questions prompted by these memories.Margriet Kruyver
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