Talks on Painting

A program of talks about painting, the way it is made, the way we look at it, and the way we use language to address it. Curator Jurriaan Benschop speaks with experts from different fields about the exhibition ‘A Grammar of Gestures’ in Athens.

“Kourd Evening Art Talks” does not take the form a formal discussion, but it engages everyone is approaching the exhibition from another point of view and create a safe space for the lovers of art to gather and exchange ideas.

9.4.22 SHIFTING SHAPES with Andreas Ragnar Kassapis painter. A shared feature of the works in the exhibition A Grammar of Gestures is the dynamics of shapes, the tendency of forms to flip and change appearance while you are looking at them. The artists seem to focus on creating pictures that are not fixed in meaning, but remain open to different readings and ways of seeing.

10.4.22 PAINTING IN THE DIGITAL AGE with Alexandros Voutsas, photographer. Within the landscape of contemporary arts and life, how does painting contribute to the conversation? What specifics does it bring to the table? The stream of digital images and information, on our phones and other screens, has created a new context and changing habits of looking. How does painting relate to the current reality of digital image production and consumption?

11.4.22 CONTENT IS A GLIMPSE with Marita Gerarchaki, clinical psychologist. What kind of responses do we have when looking at a painting? Is there an immediate recognition of what it is about? Is it even possible to speak about ‘content’ in painting? The discussion starts with a quote from abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning from the 1960’s, who stated that “content is a glimpse, an encounter like a flash.”

14.4.22 PAINTING AS A TIME BASED ART with David Benforado, painter. What if we think of painting as a time based art? As an art that took many moments to be made, and many layers for its meaning to surface? An art that unfolds only when you give it a second look and a third and see how it changes? While paintings are usually presented as static objects on the wall, time plays an important role in its production and reception.

15.4.22 GLOBAL LANGUAGE, LOCAL ROOTS with Theodora Koumoundourou, art consultant. In the exhibition five painters with different backgrounds come together. They share a common language, which creates a dialogue between their respective positions. Yet their work is rooted in different cultural contexts. How does that come out?

All talks start at 7.30 pm at Kourd Gallery, Kassianis 2 in Athens. Entrance is free. The exhibition A Grammar of Gestures is on view till 18 March 2022. Image Jurriaan Benschop (l) in conversation with painter Andreas Ragnar Kassapis (r) on 9 april.

Young Americans in Thessaloniki

Painting Adrienne Elyse Meyers

This exhibition presents the paintings of three American artists who focus on space in their work, Michelle Jezierski, Joseph Kameen and Adrienne Elyse Meyers. The interiors, landscapes, and other constellations they create are not just physical spaces, but also spaces of the mind that evoke memories and suspense, triggering perception and the imagination.

Geometric and organic shapes come together in the work of Michelle Jezierski. To find a compositional structure, she shifts and breaks observed spaces into vertical, horizontal, or diagonal bands, rearranging them to introduce an abstract rhythm into the image. Coming from a family of musicians, Jezierski likes to approach painting through aspects such as rhythm, harmony, or dissonance.

In the domestic interiors of Joseph Kameen, the everyday order of things seems disrupted. Objects have special powers, making us witness moments of alienation or wonder. A play of light and shadow leads the attention through the rooms. “The subjects of my paintings, both figures and objects, are in the process of coming to terms with their surroundings,” the artist explains.

In the works of Adrienne Elyse Meyers, empty interiors or fragments of rooms give opportunities for speculation about things that might have happened next door, or that are about to occur. The action itself is not depicted; it is just the stage that we see in the paintings. “I play into the image’s uncertainties,” the artist remarks. “What is in the next room, outside the window, or filling a silhouette is undisclosed (…)

Young Americans opens at Donopoulos IFA in Thessaloniki on December 17th, 2021 and will be on view till 27 February 2022. The exhibition is curated by Jurriaan Benschop. Image: Adrienne Elyse Meyers, Adjoining, 2020, oil on canvas 25 x 20 cm.

A Grammar of Gestures in Athens

Exhibition view A Grammar of Gestures

‘A Grammar of Gestures’ is an international painting exhibition. Human figures, animals, or elements of landscape appear in the works on display, but these motifs present themselves neither in a singular, unambiguous way, nor as a hard subject matter. Rather, the center of attention is on the dynamics of shapes, on the ability of forms to flip and change appearance while you are looking at them. This shifting has to do with the way the motifs are executed, with the grammar of painterly gestures that is involved in the conception of the works.

For David Benforado (image left) the canvas is both a possibility to evoke a landscape as a surface that reflects an inner state of being, and a panel of thoughts. What appears to be a night landscape might change into an internal view when reading the title of the work ‘Ultrasound.’

Béatrice Dreux (image right) uses simple motifs like a moon, a cloud, or a rainbow, and from there, she develops the forms in a process of layering and detailed surface treatment until they gain an inner strength. For Dreux painting is a language in itself. When she paints, she is not aiming to tell a story, or make some statement about subject matter. Instead it is about texture, gesture, color, and form, and how these elements together on the canvas speak to us directly.

“A Grammar of Gestures” is on view till 18 March 2022 at Kourd Gallery in Athens. With Maria Capelo, Mark Lammert, Michael Markwick, Beatrice Dreux and David Benforado.

Caroline Walker in The Hague

The more than twenty paintings in “Windows,” London-based painter Caroline Walker’s first solo show at a museum, depict women engaged in various kinds of work: a maid in a hotel room, a hostess taking reservations in a restaurant, a hairdresser on the salon floor. Walker observes these figures through a window or doorway. Such framed views add a layer of estrangement and abstraction to her quotidian scenes, ensuring that we viewers never forget our voyeuristic perspective.

Walker is keyed to the social environments her figures inhabit, homing in on details such as lighting, decor, and body language. At the same time, she moves through different ways of mark-making, shifting gears between the clearly articulated and foggier parts of an interior, for example, or between sparkling accents such as a glistening glass with an orange drink on the table and bland patches like a blank wall.

These paintings do not contrive spectacular effects, but rather impress through their insistent focus on scenes of contemporary life that might otherwise go unnoticed. A swirling pattern of flowers on the window of a hair salon, for example, attracts our attention to what is happening inside. Through painting, the artist bestows attention on women, their occupations, and their more or less fortunate situation in society. This alone does not grant them agency; Walker’s work, often based on photographs taken in secret, is less concerned with producing empowering representations than it is with probing the act of spectatorship. She enacts the possibility of painting to accumulate layers of reflection, a haptic experience of life observed, leaving the sociological analysis to her viewers.

This text was first published as a Critics’ Pick on Artforum.com in November 2021

Elisabeth Frieberg in Stockholm

studio elisabeth frieberg stockholm

During my visit to Sweden, the artist showed me the works of her grandparents, Beth Zeeh and Ryno Frieberg, both painters whose works can be seen in their former house in the countryside. Driving there, a good hour outside of Stockholm, I watched the landscape change into gently curving meadows, farms, forests, and lakes. I became aware of the natural background of Frieberg’s works, the visual “material” the artist has seen so often, even if only subconsciously, as it was simply always there. You might wonder why she did not become a landscape painter, considering that she grew up as a country girl, playing at the lakeside, catching fish under the bridge, and seeing how animals were fed at the farm nearby. Or you could argue that she did become a landscape painter, but she did so in the age of abstraction, where the focus is not necessarily on what can be recognized as a depiction in a painting, but on what is present in terms of energy and ideas, colors and forms. Broadly speaking, and probably more correctly, we could call Frieberg a nature-based painter. Her paintings cannot really be separated from nature, just as they cannot be separated from the late 20th century in which she grew up. She went to art school in Umeå at a time when abstract and conceptual takes on art had become part of daily practice and conversation. Abstraction was neither a novelty nor the result of a reductive view on reality, but simply an existing vocabulary with its own expressive possibilities. At the same time, for Frieberg, every part of her “abstract” paintings is rooted in nature – in the color of the sky, the movement of water, the pattern of a bird’s feather.

(…)

From the essay: “Connecting to the Source,” published in the book Elisabeth Frieberg, Rhythm Nature Movement God, Kewenig Gallery, 2021.

Eeva-Leena Eklund

I wonder if Eeva-Leena Eklund orders her pizzas because of the taste, or because of the visual patterns they provide. Throughout the years she has painted quite some different types. In square and circular paintings, salami and paprika have transformed into abstract patterns, color dots and stripes. Basically this approach applies to other motifs as well. It starts with things from everyday life, like flowers, cats or fruit. Then the artist zooms in, looks for rhythm and color dynamics, and discovers a not yet familiar sight within the figuration.

At the EMMA (Espoo Museum of Modern Art) in Finland, Eeva-Leena Eklund made an installation in which she combines paintings with photographs. She mixies many works together, presenting them side by side, creating a visual explosion. One should not be fooled by the abundance of flowers and density of colors. Within the cheerful abundance, many contrasts can be found. The sweet comes with the sour, the soft with the sharp and the work is as comforting as it is provocative. The exhibition as a whole transmits a spirit of freedom, in how to look at life, how to be yourself, and how to make painting the art of the day that matters most.

The exhibition Eeva-Leena Eklund is up till 22 August 2021 at the EMMA (close to Helsinki), curated by Anna Tuori, and commissioned by the Saastamoinen Foundation.

Lara de Moor

schilder Velvet van Lara de Moor

Leegte schilderen is een paradoxale bezigheid. In het werk van Lara de Moor gaat het om wat in de lucht hangt in nagenoeg lege huizen, om de atmosfeer die in een kamer kan worden aangetroffen. Enerzijds wordt de toon gezet door sporen van de tijd, zoals een lichtplek op de muur die verraadt waar jarenlang een schilderij heeft gehangen. Anderzijds is er de schilder die een stemming en haar biografie meebrengt en de lege ruimtes daarmee oplaadt en bepaalde aspecten accentueert. Of is het de bezoeker die het tafereel inkleurt? Wat objectief aanwezig is of in de lucht hangt, kan niet scherp worden gescheiden van wat er in de beshouwer aan inhoud sluimert. En precies daar krijgen de werken betekenis.

Tot 10 juli 2021 zijn werken van Lara de Moor te zien bij galerie Roger Katwijk in Amsterdam. De kunstenaar woont en werkt in Haarlem.

We Need to Talk

Helmut Federle exhibiton Basel

In Covid times, some galleries are encouraging their audience to window shop. They put on the lights at night so that you can enjoy the exhibition. Does that work? I tried it one evening in Berlin – I went to see a painting behind the glass as I stood on the street. But what happened was that instead of being satisfied, my longing to move in closer and enjoy the real thing grew; I became aware of what I could not have. What can we do when art is not accessible and we are blocked from the regular format of gallery visits? Can we enjoy art in a different way?

Most lockdown policies imply that art is not essential or ‘system relevant.’ In the eyes of politicians, art is like the cherry on the cake. Nice and tasty, but you can do without it. Most people might even agree that it is more important to get vegetables, have soap, bread and milk, or even a bottle of wine, than to see art. But what if the situation lasts, which is the case in many countries? What happens when museums, galleries, and theatres stay closed for months? Life starts to become shallow, repetitive; people find themselves unmotivated or indifferent. It is taking too long. Art is not just a cherry, it is part of the fabric (or dough, if you wish) of culture: of reflecting the stressful times we live in, of phrasing ideals we share. Art, for instance, allows looking into people’s problems with a refreshing distance; it can offer a reflective space or a shift in perspective and the possibility to engage with the irrational and unconscious. It invites and reminds us to be more than just a functional, economic being that eats, sleeps and works.

Read the full text on Arterritory

Gerlind Zeilner

painting by Gerlind Zeilner artist from Vienna

Till February 26, 2021, Gerlind Zeilner shows in Los Angeles. Her first exhibition at Nino Mier gallery is called ‘Open End’. For more insight into the practice of the Vienna based artist, there is the book Gerlind Zeilner, Cowgirls, published in 2020 on the occasion of her exhibition at the Halle für Kunst und Medien in Graz, Austria. A fragment from the book you find here:

“What do lines express, apart from being an instrument to depict an object or landscape, or connect things?  Do they have an expression of themselves? There can be something nervous about the lines in Zeilner’s painting, just the way they are drawn expresses sensitivity for nuance and contradictions. There is often change of color in one ongoing line, there is hesitation in the execution, the artist did not want to look things all straight and doubtless. While the world can presents itself as busy and overwhelming, the task of the artist here, seems to be to cope with that, to brings things down to a manageable and insightful level. Painting could be: to show some kind of order within the multitude of forms and phenomena. To slow down the endless threads of stories that surround us, and can easily carry us away.  

Zeilner’s way of ‘drawing painting’ evokes proximity, it gives a sense of immediate touch. As if we can feel, through the lines, that the artist touched the material, while defining forms. I see a special power of Zeilner’s work in this haptic quality, combined with her typical gesture that provides us with a kind of thinking out loud of the hand. The resulting aesthetics is active and vivid; it makes what we usually regard as solid forms (the structure of a café interior, with all its furniture for instance) as an open, moving, transparent and energetic situation. This vividness is underlined through the fact that the works remain unresolved. There are always areas where something still needs to be to filled in, to be completed by the beholder.”

From the essay ‘Walking the Line’ by Jurriaan Benschop published in Gerlind Zeilner, 2020, Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Vienna. You can visit the website of the artist here. To see views from the exhibition at Nino Mier gallery in Los Angels, click here.

Listen to Your Eyes at Voorlinden

Exhibition Listen to Your Eyes at Museum Voorlinden, Netherlands, Juan Munoz, Bridget Riley, review by Jurriaan Benschop

Even though he is its founder, Joop van Caldenborgh is usually not the one curating the presentations at Museum Voorlinden in The Netherlands. Yet on the occasion of this 80th birthday last autumn, he made an exception and designed his favorite trail through the collection, resulting in the exhibition Listen to Your Eyes. Which works did he choose from all of those that he had chosen once before, one after the other, over many decades?

Standing in front of a large Alex Katz painting, Van Caldenborgh says that artists such as Katz taught him to think “outside the box”. “There is something about artists that is weird or unadapted. Otherwise it doesn’t work. As a businessman, when I started collecting, I was not used to that.” Katz’s Twelve Hours (1984) consists of four connected panels that each show three people in social interaction. The flatness of Katz’s paintings is at work both on a formal and a psychological level – his figures are in lively conversation, yet they remain detached in terms of who they are or what they think. The museum has more paintings by Katz, and plans to present a solo exhibition of his work next year. After presentations of works by Ellsworth Kelly (in 2016) and Jonas Wood (in 2018) and Wayne Thiebaud (in 2018), Katz will be the fourth American painter whose work will be highlighted at Voorlinden.

Preferences change over the years, and Van Caldenborgh, who has collected for more than 60 years, cannot be expected to stay committed to all of the artists whose works he has acquired. Yet he likes to follow certain artists as he believes in their enterprise. This has been the case with Dutch painter Philip Akkerman, who has been painting his own self-portrait since the 1980s – it is his only and daily motif. Van Caldenborgh visits the artist once a year to pick some works. The collector likes art with a twist, be it through a rigid concept like Akkerman’s, or presented as a visual punch, like in Erwin Wurm’s Pudelhaube (2019) – an oversized beanie under which visitors can stand and appear to have “lost their head”, or which can also be contemplated as a soft sculpture in itself.

A pre-Columbian piece of fabric, possibly 1400 years old (maker unknown) and depicting a checkerboard pattern of colors, hangs in a room with works by Ryan Gander, Thomas Demand and Alberto Burri. It looks like an intimate abstract painting. It is possible to relate the delicate textile piece to the work of Burri, in which surface and materiality are most important, even though the context in which these objects were made are worlds apart. By introducing an ancient artifact in the context of contemporary art, Van Caldenborgh shows that he has himself learned to think “outside the box”. He listens to his eyes indeed.

Tjebbe Beekman’s painting Abstellraum (2006) was made during the period in which the artist lived in Berlin – he was fascinated by how history was so very present in the buildings and city spaces he visited. Van Caldenborgh suggests that this painting of a storage room could be regarded as an inversion of Luc Tuymans’ approach. While Tuymans paints scenes that seem innocent, but hide a dark or unsettling (war) history, in Beekman’s painting it seems that we are looking at a dark and charged atmosphere even though it is, in fact, just an ‘innocent’ space adjacent to a Berlin beer garden that the artist noticed one day. It offers a moment to reflect on the importance of things that are not always visible in a painting.

Listen to Your Eyes shows a bit of everything. Most artists represented in the collection have at least one piece in the show, which allows for displaying the diversity of the collection. Van Caldenborgh seems to follow the thread of previous collection presentations curated by museum staff. Such an approach is good for raising the visitor’s curiosity and can lead to discovering artists that are new to them, but it is less accommodating in terms of getting a deeper sense of an artist’s mentality, obtaining an understanding of the context in which a work was developed, or developing a dialogue between artists. It is hard to develop lasting storylines with so many different types of works.

At first sight you would not think that Liza Lou’s wall piece Pannus (2018) is made of little beads, as it looks more like a collection of hanging fabrics. The artist works with collectives of women in South Africa to conceive highly labor-intensive handmade pieces and installations. The shared manual work is about more than just producing an object or an installation: for the artist, it is about labor conditions and about the question of how immaterial qualities like empathy can become part of both the artistic process and what we are looking at. The work of Lou is presented in the seventh and last room of the exhibition, which is my favorite room as I feel that here the works relate to each other in a way that adds to their individual meaning.

Nils Völker has made a kinetic sculpture – miniature pinwheels (the colorful ones children play with) mounted on the wall in the form of a circle. Powered by electricity, the pinwheels begin to spin every now and then and in different rhythms, thereby causing a visual play. To place this lighthearted work next to a painting by a grand old lady of abstraction, Bridget Riley, might be considered daring – but it works. Both artists – again, worlds apart – embrace the pleasure of looking at things, and present their fascination for optics. A dynamic quality is something Riley always looked for in the stationary medium of painting: to make the canvas vibrate and active through various color combinations. Looking at something is a work that is never finished.

A sculpture by the late Juan Muñoz completes the scene, and brings in a figurative element in a room with mostly abstract works. Two bronze figures lean towards one another in conversation. The figures are smaller than life-size, and instead of having legs, each one ‘sits’ atop a bulbous base. They are half human, half something else. Muñoz’s figures have the ability to change the atmosphere in the room, mixing beauty with a sense of secrecy and melancholy. They transform the room into a stage where the visitor is complicit, but without saying in exactly what.

“Listen to Your Eyes” will be on view through 5 September 2021 at Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands. This text was first published on Arterritory on January 19th, 2021