Marc Trujillo at West (+video)

Marc Trujillo painting

Los Angeles based painter Marc Trujillo shows recent works in the exhibition ‘8810 Tampa Avenue’ at West in The Hague (The Netherlands). Curator Jurriaan Benschop spoke with the artist at the opening (on May 7th 2023), about what makes a painting work, Trujillo’s relation to old Dutch Masters, and how to deal with desire in a painting.

Living and working in Los Angeles, the artist takes stock of everyday American life by portraying precise details of shopping malls, fast food restaurants and consumer goods. The paintings are small and compact, in contrast to the physical and existential space taken up by consumer architecture in the American landscape. For Trujillo, painting is a way to pay attention to places that are not meant to be looked at for a longer time. He remarks, ‘I look for the precise expression of mixed feelings.’ According to him, a painting is successful and most potent when it comprises the necessary degree of ambivalence. What is visually appealing and fascinating can at the same time generate uncomfortable thoughts on globalization, sustainability and the emptiness behind the facades of material prosperity.

Trujillo is one of more than 40 artists featured in the book ‘Waarom een schilderij werkt’ (Why Paintings Work), by Jurriaan Benschop. The book is available during exhibition hours at West , The Hague, Wed-Sun 12-18h.

Spring Tour USA

In Spring 2023 I visit several Midwest universities for a talk about my book Why Paintings Work. The tour starts in Aiken (South Carolina), and then goes to Bloomington (Indiana), Chicago (Illinois), Fayetteville (Arkansas) and Lyon College (Arkansas). Most visits consists of a public lecture and studio visits at the department of visual arts.

Why Paintings Work navigates the stylistically diverse landscape of contemporary painting. In the book, the author introduces the work of dozens of painters, discussing the themes, techniques, and sensibilities that can be found in their art. He continually returns to the question: Why does this painting work? In what ways does it speak to the viewer? He considers both the visible aspects of a painting, such as the depicted motif and the application of paint, as well as the concepts, beliefs, and motivations that lie behind the canvas. Why Paintings Work is not just about the mechanics of looking at works of art, but also about finding a language that suits the paintings and the experiences of the present day.

Why Paintings Work is published by Garret Publications (Helsinki). Public lectures are scheduled at USC Aiken (30 March), IU BLoomington (6 April, Painting annex), University of Chicago (10 April, Logan Center) and Fayetville (20 April, UARK Fine Arts Building).

Martha Jungwirth in Düsseldorf

exhibition Martha Jungwirth at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

Martha Jungwirth lives in Vienna but part of the year she spend on the Cycladic Islands in Greece, such as Paros or Serifos. Impressions of the landscape, the architecture, the vegetation end up in her watercolors, which form the basis of both small and large scale paintings. A survey of Jungwirth’s work was presented in 2022 at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf, including some works of the series Paros.

For the book that accompanies the exhibition I wrote an essay about Jungwirth’s approach to painting, about her love for Vladimir Nabokov and about her interest in the immediate, pre-verbal working of paintings.

You find a more detailed description of the book here

Caitlin Lonegan in Vienna

Caitlin Lonegan

On the occasion of Caitlin Lonegan’s exhibition in Vienna, at Galerie Nächst St Stephan, Rosemarie Schwarzwälder invited me to reflect on the work . In this video you see an introduction to the exhibition, in German with English subtitles.

Kunstenaarsgesprek Lara de Moor

Schilderij Lara de Moor Velvet, 2020

Ze komt uit een familie van kunstenaars en schrijvers, maar ze is maar tot op zekere hoogte fan van het woord, als het om beeldende kunst gaat. Woorden kunnen als loopplank toegang tot een schilderij verschaffen, maar ze kunnen het schilderij ook inkapselen, vastzetten in betekenis, meent Lara De Moor. Woorden neigen dingen hard te maken, te doen stollen, terwijl het leven zelf vloeibaar is, zich in de tijd afspeelt, steeds verandert. Net als verf, die vloeibaar is als je haar opbrengt en pas stolt als de lagen over elkaar komen te liggen, de compositie vorm krijgt, het tafereel droogt.

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 hing. Anderzijds is er de schilder die een stemming 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 beschouwer sluimert.

Naar aanleiding van de verschijning van Waarom een schilderij werkt, ga ik op zaterdag zaterdag 10 December in gesprek met beeldend kunstenaar Lara de Moor. De fragmenten hierboven zijn uit het hoofdstuk over haar werk. Er zal tevens een presentatie van haar schilderijen in de galerie te zien zijn.

10 dec 2022, Galerie Roger Katwijk, Prinsengracht 737, Amsterdam, 16.30 u (inloop vanaf 16u). Vrij toegang. Graag even aanmelden vooraf: info@galerierogerkatwijk.nl

Waarom een schilderij werkt

boek cover Waarom een schilderij werkt

In Waarom een schilderij werkt onderzoekt Jurriaan Benschop de veelvormige schilderkunst van onze huidige tijd. Hij introduceert het werk van tientallen schilders, bespreekt de thema’s die in het werk te vinden zijn en stelt daarbij steeds de vraag: Waarom werkt dit schilderij? Op wat voor manier heeft het betekenis en kan het overtuigen? Dit brengt hem bij zowel zichtbare aspecten van schilderkunst, zoals beeldmotief en de manier van schilderen, als bij wat onzichtbaar achter het doek ligt: de drijfveren, het wereldbeeld en de culturele achtergrond van de kunstenaar.

Waarom een schilderij werkt gaat, behalve over de vraag hoe we naar schilderkunst kijken, ook over de vraag hoe we over kunst spreken en schrijven. Wil taal over een kunstwerk iets betekenen, dan moet ze ermee in evenwicht zijn, niet topzwaar of overdreven, maar passend bij wat in het kunstwerk aan de orde komt.

Het boek gaat in op het werk van Louise Bonnet, Peter Doig, Helmut Federle, Beverly Fishman, Victoria Gitman, Martha Jungwirth, Andreas Ragnar Kassapis, Rezi van Lankveld, Kerry James Marshall, Lara de Moor (coverbeeld), Marc Mulders, Kaido Ole, Paula Rego, Jessica Stockholder, Daniel Richter, Anna Tuori, Matthias Weischer en vele anderen. Verder zijn er thematische hoofdstukken die onder meer ingaan op de vraag wat ‘inhoud’ in een schilderij is, wanneer een schilder een colorist wordt genoemd, en hoe concept en schilderkunst zich verhouden.

Waarom een schilderij werkt is verschenen bij uitgeverij van Oorschot Het boek kost 25 euro en is verkrijgbaar in Nederlandse en Vlaamse boekwinkels. De Engelse vertaling verschijnt in het voorjaar van 2023. Meld je aan voor de nieuwsbrief om nieuws en details over lezingen te ontvangen.

Exhibition ‘Three of a Kind’

The exhibition ‘Three of a Kind’ presents the work of three painters who share an interest in ambivalent forms of figuration: Milla Aska, Veronika Hilger, and Paula Zarina-Zemane. Their paintings depict situations or figures that cannot be identified in one, singular way but remain open to different readings. Yet in the choice of colors and the treatment of surface and paint, each of the artists develops a specific voice and unique character.

The figures in the work of Milla Aska (1993, based in Helsinki) appear to be behind a veil. They do not seem to be fully developed, but rather in the process of becoming visible and tangible. This impression is evoked through Aska’s approach to building up a painting with thin, translucent layers of paint. “My paintings seek shape around themes such as materiality and bodily sensations – for instance, how something feels against the skin, or what warmth feels like. I am intrigued by forms that seem to be something specific but don’t quite reveal themselves.”

The paintings of Veronika Hilger (1981, based in Munich) combine elements of landscape, still life, and portrait. Hilger is a specialist in ambiguous figuration. The shapes in her paintings have a familiar, often organic touch but are not specific enough to name. The artist presents them on an elementary level, stripped of details. As a result, the forms have a dynamic appearance: a foot could be a leaf, a leaf could be an animal, an animal could be a stone. “The organic is something that you can easily dock onto as a human, and that creates a kind of identification potential,” the artist noted.

In the works of Paula Zarina-Zemane (1988, based in Riga), the distinction between human and environment is blurred. The works oscillate between abstract compositions formed through clouds of color, and more concrete outlines of landscapes. The paintings are usually the result of a fast process, and they do evoke a sense of speed through the traces left by the brush. Yet the reduced composition also sets a reflective mood. “I am trying to get the result in one go,” the artist noted.

Three of a Kind opened on 30 June 2022 at KOGO Gallery in Tartu, Estonia and runs till 3 September 2022. The exhibition is curated by Jurriaan Benschop. It is part of the exhibition series Past is the Present at the Kogo Gallery in 2022.

Rezi van Lankveld Interview

Painting detail Rezi van Landveld

Elements of landscape, architecture, and the body meld together in the small-scale paintings of Rezi van Lankveld. Forms may look familiar but are reluctant to be identified in a singular sense; the figuration is ambivalent. Movement is key in the Dutch artist’s conception of a painting: a figure should be flexible and ready to change shape. At New York’s Petzel Gallery, Van Lankveld presents recent paintings in the exhibition Soft Sun.

Some of your paintings evoke aspects of a landscape: there are rocks, a sky with some clouds, or the slope of a hill. Do you think of landscape images when you make a painting? Do you have specific natural elements in mind?

Nature is there, but not in a direct, visible sense – more as a state of mind. The natural elements that I have in mind are abstract; they represent a movement or a certain depth. I grew up in a rural area in the east of the Netherlands, where the landscape was agricultural, with meadows, high skies, and also some forests. This spacious environment has helped form me.

Your work has a calm appearance, but it is also dynamic. It usually conveys a sense of movement, and this seems to be more important than the subject matter, the figure, or constellation that is depicted. The figuration seems ready to change its appearance. Are the motifs that you paint the result of intuitive gestures, or do you translate observations from life into the world of painting, following some sort of plan?

When I paint, I allow a lot of things to happen. I do not want to impose too much on the image as it unfolds. I do not use a sketch or anything like that in advance. A preconceived image would get in the way of my direct connection to the paint. I need the painting to keep changing once I start out, to find the right direction. In this process, I find shapes that seem uncertain about their identity. They could be this but also that – there is a dynamic quality in their appearance that I want to transmit. Often the final form of the painting comes in a flash – I see it at once. To reach that, the painting goes through a lot of stages, until the paint starts to become alive. Whereas in an illustration, the image tries to express one idea in precision, I look for the opposite, for openness and ambiguity. It is not just one thing that is depicted. It is rather a situation in movement. It is everything at the same time: figure, portrait, landscape.

Read the full interview on Curator website. The exhibition at Petzel Gallery runs till 26 March 2022.

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