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I visited the exhibition ‘Chair takes a stand’ (23 September – 14 January 2023) in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. Of course I visited this exhibition. The first room was in a sense reserved for the slatted armchair, also known as the Red-Blue chair, by Gerrit Rietveld‘. This room with all kinds of very diverse appropriations and interpretations of this design convincingly illustrated the considerable impact of this design. Dutch comedian Claudia de Breij, for example, appears to have used it in the decor of one of her shows. In this case the ‘set piece’ was covered with newspaper clippings. Contemporary designers started and continue to run with it. One of the more drastic and actually moving versions is by designer Maarten Baas. In his smoke series he attacks various iconic furniture and more with fire. He treats the blackened remains with a resin so that the object, weakened by the fire, becomes sturdy and therefore usable again. He also did that years ago with this Rietveld icon. Weeks later, back in my studio, the idea arose to blend the two together and treat both versions equally. Baas and Rietveld in the blender, so to speak.
For anyone who has ever drawn more seriously, ‘deep shadow’ or ‘the depth of a shadow’ will not sound strange. Especially when you want to highlight your subject by drawing from observation, it helps enormously to regularly, or sometimes even just, focus on the shadow. This often gives the depicted object an effective boost. What if the depth of the shadow is taken literally? And what does that do visually? ‘Out of the shadows’ a playful exploration.
Score the paper and you also have a line. Drawing by taking something away instead of adding something.
Removing and adding creates layers, literally and figuratively.
For an artist who makes his own frames and who likes to juggle with language, the English word ‘to frame’ is a godsend. See my series Framing Rietveld or more recently Framed II and Framed IV and Unframe. In recent years, despite my best intentions, my drawings have sometimes tended to squeak, crawl, or more brutally stick out of the frame. That idiosyncrasy manifests itself very emphatically in this work where the depicted chairs take a stand against me. I don’t know if I’m going to give them their way.
While making De Aanslag (The Attack), the idea arose to have the, at least for me, iconic criminal quartet De Daltons commit an attack on a chair. After all, a chair has a leg for everyone of them. Not every chair is suitable for this. Ultimately I came to Rietveld’s military chair. When the drawing was almost finished, I suddenly realized that the Daltons lived in a completely different time, well before Rietveld. No idea why I didn’t think of that sooner. I then looked through my Lucky Luke albums and kept coming across the same type of chair and with a little good will it was also suitable: The Assault II.
Of course this follows on from my earlier drawing The Attack. But why saw four legs at the same time? Anyone who has delved a little deeper into my work knows my love for cartoons. This is clearly evident in Strip, for example. Those four synchronized sawyers are of course the Daltons and not so much the real ones from the Wild West but those of cartoonist Morris, the inventor of Lucky Luke. Four legs, four crooks, with that I started and while searching for an appropriate chair I got stuck again at Gerrit Rietveld’s Military Chair. So far so good, but when I literally finished the drawing it occurred to me that I had overlooked a ‘detail’. The real Daltons date from the second part of the 19th century and this chair by Rietveld is from 1923, which is roughly half a century apart. Truly a failed attack.
The way of looking and thinking on which the works from the ‘exit‘ and ‘pedestal‘ series are based gets incorporated. When, in this case, I leaf through the eight centimeter thick book ‘Atlas of furniture design‘ from the German factory Vitra in fact looking for a design by Rietveld (where was that again?), my eye is casually drawn to this chair. A design by the Italian architect Guiseppe Terragni for the Casa del Fascio: the Laraina. When the penny dropped, I started this work immediately.
When there are conflicting interests involved, moving along can sometimes be a solution. Who makes the move is point two. In this case it is the frame so it seems.
While making Levels, this possibility popped up in my head while drawing. It required some headaches, how exactly, but yes, then it is best to just start. No sooner said than done and see the result here. Credits again to Mart Stam, what a wonderful invention that ‘one-tube frame chair‘! (This last link is in Dutch, maybe google-translate can help?)
Unframe a drawing I had just finished asked for this sequel. At a certain distance it looks like a pattern of 10 tubular frame chairs. But is that true? Two patterns that interfere and, depending on the position you take as a viewer, produce an ever subtly changing image. A kind of kinetic art where the energy has to come from you as a viewer.
I also made this as a preliminary study for a larger work in color on watercolor cardboard. This one will follow next summer.
Already two years ago I made Levitation and this is a direct successor of course, which does not mean that I was aware of that when I made this one. This way you see that you can end up in a place where you once were via yet another way. I especially like this spatial game because you can actually only play it ‘live’. Play along!
The first impression, looking at all the other chairs I’ve drawn over the years, is undoubtedly “Why a wheelchair?”. And indeed the more there is added on a chair, no matter how functional, the less my interest in it. At the same time, I come across one quite often, so somewhere such a chair is always latently present. Semantically, you can philosophize about when a wheelchair is a wheelchair? I did that with this as a result. Incidentally, I expect that this (left) wheelchair will remain an exception. (In dutch a ‘rol’ is also a cylinder/role what makes it difficult to translate it in English)
When drawing the line comes from the pencil and in line with that thought I started making this work. I must add that the idea has been boosted by the fact that it often happens that the core of the pencil, the graphite rod, is significantly shorter than the Koh-I-Noor pencil is long. Then you look into a small black hole where a piece of iron wire fits exactly….