In the spring of 2021 Holland was in a lock down. The whole country had to work at home which meant that most people worked behind a screen. To compensate the static situation people started to move consciously and so did I. I walked daily in and around Den Haag, which is where I live. I was much more aware of my surroundings and I thoroughly enjoyed the changes in nature during the winter and the coming of spring. During these walks I met people that stood out for some reason and after having finished the Berlin portraits (see below) I started to make notes and sketches in my notebook of people in my around me. The people I used for these sketches were sometimes known to me but most often I remarked someone walking across the street or walking and talking behind me. Sometimes I only saw a glimpse of someone that made me wonder about such a person. The texts in the notebook may clarify that point.
After having done 21 portraits I decided to paint a series of portraits as a memory of this period of pandemic. My Notebook would be the material and some of the text was also used in the portraits. You can see the ones I documented until now in this carousel:
In September 2020 A-Trans invited EX-MÊKH in Berlin to make installations in the shop windows of the Kleist-subway station. Under the name Femaler we created two installations based on gender: one was done by the woman and the other one was done by the two men. Highlighting the opening both installations were revealed by performances. During the days installing the work we made long walks in the city and I drew little sketches of people that caught my eye. I did so in a little book that I always carry with me. At night I would describe the persons in text. Later that year I started to make larger drawings of them on the Malieveld and in January I made sketches in oil paint and oil pastel on stone-paper. This way of working appealed to me, so I started a series of Brief Encounters of people I saw during Corona walks. Later I will put those on this page too. For now I will show the Berlin portraits in the order that I made them including all material. I made a video about the whole series and send it in for the Platforms Project NET 2021 teaser to be published on April 6th 2021.
Muses and Metamorphoses
After my researchtrip to the USA and processing the material into work that I showed at several occasions I wanted to change my subjectmatter to a broader perspective. As a start I worked on my “Shard”- series, but I thought change as a subject might be appropriate in a world in which so much is happening. As a start I am working on a series of small paintings with people from my diaries and the way I look at them now. I took the names of figures in Ovid’s Metamorphoses of which I thought it fitted the character I described and the change it went through for me in time.
In “textworks” you will find the development in which I started to use text from my diaries in my work. The first painting with text and painting that I did in 2014 was on the basis of an early entry in my diary. I was invited to participate in “De Hommage” for which a number of painters made an ode to “Het Puttertje” of the famous 17th century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius. I wrote about a book an uncle gave to me as a present, it contained one hundred masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It said more about my uncle and his enthusiasm for my drawings than about “het Puttertje” which was in the Mauritshuis anyway. I duplicated the text on canvas and I painted a free rendition of the little bird over it. I loved it and I took two texts about my hitchhiking adventures in Germany for which I followed the same procedure: “Aquaplaning” and “Dillenburg”. Sketches are shown below. I showed the paintings in Berlin at the Augentausch-exhibition at A-Trans in 2015.
I started to experiment painting texts and punctuation marks on a monochrome background. Then I added imagery to it. I also processed memories of my time in California, right after Dutch art-school. This was in anticipation of what came next: In 2016 I traveled in the USA with a grand from STROOM. I applied for research on Black Mountain College and some other influences I had during and right after Dutch art-school, when I studied at CCAC in Oakland California. My attention turned to Europe after all that but still echoes of this culture haunted me, so I wanted to know the relevance of these influences in my present practice. I wanted to have as much talks and discussions as I could to capture the state of the nation. So I traveled Greyhound.
Eventually this turned against me: this was the year that Trump campaigned to be president and the media were full of his rhetoric while the stories I heard and the people I spoke to talked about unemployment, poverty, evictions, devorce, unsufficient health-care, homelessness, hopelessness and more misery. It really got to me and my focus changed from my own intentions to the people instead. I wrote down quotes and descriptions in my diary. At home I made sketches of the people I met and wrote quotes in the sketches: The Pre-Trump Portraits. Here you can see some. I also started to make sketches for larger work I wanted to make, some sketches you can see here. My art-memories about working together and publishing Ysland Magazine in the eighties and the way artists from New York socialized in bars and restaurants in the fifties. But also a sketch about the eviction I heard about. And there’s more coming!