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Bas van den Hurk - See You When You Get There
The title of the exhibition stems from the Coolio song featuring 40 Thevz ‘See You When You Get There’, which is based on Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. It was released in 1997 as the first single from the album My Soul. For Van den Hurk the title refers to the possibility of organising along lines of sensibilities and becoming each other’s witnesses. “I guess, I'll see you when you see me” sings Coolio at the end; this experience of breaking open a dimension which would not be accessible if it was not possible to share a reality by becoming mutual witnesses, a dimension that is only accessible through a caesura in time and understanding, is at the core of his practice.
BAS VAN DEN HURK: ACCIDENTAL AND INEVITABLE
Excerpts from an interview on 17 October 2013 by Peter Nijenhuis. The full interview is available on: http://peternijenhuis.blogspot.nl/2013/10/bas-van-den-hurk-stomtoevallig-en_25.html#more
You once said that you work intuitively in your studio, but isn’t there behind those intuitive gestures a more defined idea about what your work should look like?
When I use the word intuition I definitely do not mean that I am working in a mist or more or less from a blank sheet. I have been working as an artist for a long time; I have seen a lot. I think about my work and that of others, and over the years I have read a lot too. You cannot forget or switch off that background while you are working. By saying that I work intuitively I also wanted to react on the art theory that presents art as a form of knowledge production. In my opinion that is not the essence of art. Art is a way to express yourself in the language and materials of that art form. To me, working intuitively means that you feel and search for what is being expressed through the materialisation. Knowledge is important, but what is being expressed through the material is in a way beyond words. What the heterogeneous materiality of a work evokes is - at least partially- outside the realm of the conceptual and nameable.
A steady stream of work flows from your hands. You keep almost all the works in your studio for a while. You look at them, sometimes you change something, and after a while you decide whether a work is finished or not. On what basis do you make that decision?
I regard my work as something with an order of its own. I imagine that order to be like the order the author Borges once used in an essay, and that Foucault referred to in’ Les Mots et les Choses’: a certain Chinese encyclopaedia. In this encyclopaedia the animals in the Chinese empire were classified in accordance with a certain taxonomy: a) those that belong to the Emperor, b) embalmed, c) tamed, d) suckling pigs, e) sirens, f) mythical creatures, etc. It is a certain order that follows a certain logic that you can work with. My work, my own Chinese encyclopaedia, has a similar inner logic. I can explain that logic and its accompanying criteria to an extent. I work within the models of painting and along it’s fringes. Works have to do with abstraction; it’s not about the ‘what’ of a work, It’s about the ‘that’. In other words, not about what it represents, means or what lies behind it, but about the sole presence and functioning of depiction itself. Moreover, a work must be related to theoretic and intellectual questions that I find important and in almost all works I react to classic concepts like the collage, the monochrome and other modernistic art forms. When working I search for freedom to take action, but that freedom shouldn’t turn into a form of non commitment. After all, setting boundaries is about making choices time and again.
Where does the use of textiles and jewellery come from? Most men don’t use that.
My work is often labelled as feminine. The future is female, I believe in that. It is difficult to say something about it without psychologising too much, but one can come up with reasons. I am a child of the 1960s, my parents were hippies and in those days sex and gender and the social implications of that were topics of discussion. The boundaries between them shifted. I must add that, to me, working with textile and jewellery is not by definition only linked to something feminine. Lots of artists, including male artists, are currently working with textile and, to a lesser extent, with jewellery. One of the personal backgrounds in my work might also be sought in the fact that my father taught drawing at secondary school and was a trained window-dresser. That is more or less a lost profession. In the past, shops had large windows and a lot of effort was put into decorating them. In the 1960s and 1970s people went window shopping. My father travelled all over the Netherlands to decorate windows for large chains like Witteveen and Hij Herenmode. He also taught window-dressing. Here in Tilburg there was a vocational school where they created a street full of shop windows in the school building. During my youth I always saw my father running around with a window-dresser’s hammer, pins, threads and fabrics. My father loved his profession and I also have an affinity for displaying and arranging things and decorating. For me textiles are linked to something that has a specific charge. Tilburg was traditionally a true textile city. I often purchase the textiles that I use for my paintings at Listex, a Tilburg based company that sorts second-hand clothing. Second-hand clothing says something about a certain taste that has passed, but a taste people once conformed to and that linked them together, whether they knew or not. That community feeling is more visible in old clothing than in clothing that is still in fashion because in that case too much emphasis is placed on the actual. The use of textiles and jewellery has something sensual and my urge for the sensual might have to do with the fact that I am from Brabant. In Tilburg your directed more towards Antwerp and Brussels than towards Amsterdam. We lean towards the South. Strict and bare Calvinism is less applicable here than the exuberance we inherited from our Catholic past. I use textiles and fabrics also simply because I love them, their patterns and the abstraction it can have.
When you exhibit your work, you pay a lot of attention to their arrangement. Sometimes you make a wall or, like in this exhibition for Hopstreet, you make a rack and a hanger that works hang or lean on. This makes some works feel like a sculpture or a derivative of a sculpture. In other words, you move on different terrains: that of painting, sculpture, architecture and everything in between. Can you explain why you work like this?
Those who pursue painting and its boundaries, automatically arrive at things that are related to painting and that were turned into a problem and an subject of art by the neo-avant-gardes of the 20th century. This relates to questions about the relationship between the art object, the space it is exhibited in and architecture. It is also related to the relationship between painting and sculpture and, for example, the rejection of their differences by minimalists like Donald Judd. A rack that you hang or lean something on gives you the opportunity to evoke questions. Is the rack only a bearer of art objects or is it part of the art object? Is it sculpture or design? Is it materiality or is it a grid? You shine a light on the ambiguities that the development of art has brought up. You reproduce the failures of a subject’s strive for autonomy and you clear the way to allow these thing to speak.
The Nul artist Henk Peeters, who died not so long ago, predicted in 1960 that art would quickly leave the realm of painting. According to Peeters, it was completely pointless to decorate your house - in the words of Peeters ‘the current living machine decorated and built with the newest inventions and materials’ - with reactionary thoughts and framed resistance to the forms of this era. Do you think that Peeters was wrong?
Peeters was not the only one who relegated painting to the scrapheap. At the beginning of the 20th century Duchamp was, by his own account, tired of so-called retinal art. That painting has been declared dead so often makes it all the more challenging for me to continue with it. That painting is almost nothing or, at the most, can be just a little something is part of the current situation. Art no longer plays a constituting role; we constantly question its social relevance. As Paolo Virno described it, art and the profession of artist appear to be dissolved like an effervescent tablet in a glass of water. You cannot extract yourself from that situation.