The moody, nearly monotone world of JEROEN WITVLIET's paintings appears to be one on the brink of destruction or already just past it. It seems like tremendous clouds of dust from a recent disaster have settled over the surface of everything. Regardless, Jeroen seeks to reveal the presence of the "Poetic" amidst the aggressive stadium crowds, the beached and overturned boats and the endless piles of broken boards and branches. Jeroen earned his BFA from Willem De Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Netherlands and his MFA from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He has had solo exhibitions at Slide Room Gallery (Victoria, BC), Zerp Gallery (Rotterdam) and Elissa Cristall Gallery (Vancouver). His current solo show, Wayfarer, at http://kelownaartgallery.com/jeroen-witvliet-wayfarer/ in British Columbia will close on October 18, 2015, so there's still time to see it. Born in the Netherlands, Jeroen now lives in Victoria, British Columbia.
OtherPeoplesPixels: The definition of wayfarer is "a person who travels on foot." In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, many words with vastly different connotations are cited as synonyms: drifter, gadabout, gypsy, knockabout, maunderer, rambler, roamer, rover, stroller, vagabond, wanderer, nomad. Who is the wayfarer in your current show at Kelowna Art Gallery in British Columbia, Canada? Do any of these connotations apply?
Jeroen Witvliet: The Wayfarer is, to me, an abstraction, a situation one might find oneself in, a place where we wonder, where decisions need to be made or a place in which we feel utterly lost. Lost by accident or by choice. A wayfarer is also a person who travels between communities without being part of either one, a person who brings tidings from one place to another. A messenger without roots. The wayfarer in this show is everyone and no one at the same time.
OPP: I see both narratives and symbols of violence, aggression and the aftermath of destruction. It's in the dead bodies of Part I and Part II (2014), the recurring beached and overturned boats, the drones and the fighting figures of Feral, as well as the chaotic landscapes of Wayfarer. Are you an optimist or a pessimist about the contemporary world we live in?
JW: The work comes into being while being surrounded by media and news images, reading newspapers and listening to radio. Violence and aggression finds a way into the work, but I am not making any direct references to specific events. I can't say that I am neutral, but I try not to have an overtly pessimistic world view get in the way of creating images. I need them to carry a sense of the Poetic. Something you can't put your finger on, a sense of wonder and beauty even though that might not be the first association made by the viewer. If the work escapes definition they become like the the world I find myself in, nothing is either this or that.
OPP: Could you talk about when you choose not to exhibit your paintings on the wall? I'm thinking about the moveable display structures in Wayfarer and the unprimed, unstretched canvases of Feral. What makes one painting right for the wall and another beg to become more sculptural?
JW: The choice to take paintings of the wall and exhibit them as movable displays took some time. I have experimented with mounting work on different structures or as loose canvas hanging off the wall for some years and have, for now settled on showing work that is placed on custom-built wooden structures. This way I can vary the space in between the works and give the space in which the work is displayed a new feel. I can move works closer, opposite of each other or angle them and so create charged, in-between spaces. It is important to me to show that the work is two-dimensional and contains some sort of lie. The suggestion that we look into a space, a painted space, is being addressed by showing the backside and the structure that is used to stretch the canvas.
The works in Feral, on the other hand, are based on banners that are carried in protests. Instead of text, I use images that relate to protests on the banners. They are carried around by whoever wants to during exhibitions, constantly changing the way the work looks. When the works get dirty or damaged a sense of the passing of time is present. This adds to the work. The idea of time also plays a role in the structures with mounted work on them. While observing the work the viewer is asked to move around more, discovering relationships between the various works, linking or creating different narratives. Awareness of space and the passing of time become more present.
OPP: You are predominantly a painter, but have also studied film at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. Some paintings—Stadium, empty field (2013) and Lights (2013), for example—are based on stills from videos you made, but you don't include the videos themselves on your site. Is video and film just a tool for painting in your practice? How has thinking about the moving image affected your work in painting?
JW: Video and film can give us a a different sense and sensation of the passing of time. To me they can investigate and address issues surrounding spatial experience, narrative, angles of viewing and memory. How images in film are sequential has influenced my way of thinking about repetition, rhythm and how to deal with the possibility of narrative in the paintings. Editing in video has taught me how to edit my work when hanging a show. The work is made with the presentation in mind, the relationship between the works are of great importance to the overall experience of the work.
My video/film work stands by itself even though there are very distinct similarities. The video work has become very simplified over time, a single point of view recording the passage of a vessel or stadium lights turning on. These recordings do influence the way I paint. I might ask what changes take place over time when observing something for 30 minutes or more. Does our sensation of time apply to painting where we assume the image is static. To me there is no static image in painting: you look, turn around, come back to the same painting and a shift has taken place. Your memory and consequently the associations are triggering the possibility for different perspectives.
OPP: I see a connection between the grasping hands and packed stadiums. While the hands are about the relationships between a few people and the stadiums are about the crowd, both have implicit elements of connection, disconnection and desperation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the relationship between these repeated motifs.
JW: The paintings of hands and the stadium pieces are both investigating the ongoing relationship of an individual to a group and the shifting mentality of society to idea, belief systems and radical thought. How does the mentality of a group relate to the feelings and emotions of the individual? How does one become part of a group and act accordingly or how does one become outcast/separated from a group? With the hands, I am looking for intimacy of one person to another, realizing that in a group a different intimacy might exist. The fragile bond between individuals extends itself to the bonds between the group and the individual and between groups that define themselves as being different from the other group. The hands might hold something close to desire, longing, desperation or eroticism. They are human. This humanity can be easily lost in the group. I’m interested in questioning how we maintain our sense of self when confronted with chaos and change or the radical outburst of groups—whether small or stadium-sized. Are we spectators or participants or is that line too blurred to even distinguish?
SHIFT / THE UNDOING
Sarah van der Pols and Jeroen Witvliet
16/07/2017 - 13/08/2017
Sarah van der Pols
'Shift / The Undoing'
16/07/2017 - 13/08/2017
Opening: zondag 16 juli, 15.00 - 17.00 uur.
Artist-in-residence Vincent van GoghHuis
Vrijdag 30 juni 2017, 17.00 uur
Het Vincent van GoghHuis heeft het genoegen u uit te nodigen voor de opening van de expositie van Jeroen Witvliet op vrijdag 30 juni 2017 om 17.00 uur in de Van GoghGalerie Zundert.
Jeroen Witvliet heeft in juni 2017 als ‘artist-in-residence’ gewerkt in het gastatelier van het Vincent van GoghHuis. De resultaten daarvan zijn t/m 30 juli 2017 te bewonderen in de Van GoghGalerie
Vincent van GoghHuis
Markt 26-27, 4881 CN Zundert
076 597 85 90
wo – vr 10 - 17 uur
za – zo 12 - 17 uur
Gesloten op nieuwjaarsdag, 1e paasdag, koningsdag, corsozondag en 1e kerstdag)
Kijk voor het volledige programma op |http:www.vangoghhuis.com|
4881 DA Zundert
All Tomorrow's Parties- Comox Valley Art Gallery
All Tomorrow's Parties- Comox Valley Art Gallery
Using red as his primary colour palette, Witvliet has created expansive paintings that evoke the mythological, the historical or some possible future.
This new body of work is a continuation of my Wayfarer and Sighting series in which I explore what dislocation and the adaptation of a nomadic existence might look like and/or feel like as subject, viewer or participant. Through the manipulation and creation of ‘could be landscapes’ filled with referential (symbolic) objects, we are lead through what could be described as the memory of history – history not in the past tense but rather as a promise – one kept, broken or projected into an unknown future.
As subject/viewer/participant we are invited to contemplate the landscape, the arrangements, the purpose and the connections between images. The landscapes might seem familiar, as if we have wandered through them before. Alternately a sense of recognition might arise through another connection such as a film, a visualization from book, or a childhood memory.
The paintings are intended to leave us hanging – like the feeling one gets when thinking that something else or something different could or should have been said, or wishing that you had taken another route or been more receptive to another.
Are we mere spectators or fully involved in all that plays out around us – part of the party or standing uninvited at the door? In All Tomorrow’s Parties there is a sense of loss – the viewer/participant is late and the party is over. And then the promise made to the spectator to become a participant shifts once more back to that nomadic existence. Grasping at straws and moving on.
Exhibition January 21 - February 25 2017
Opening Reception January 21 2017
Artist Talk January 21 2017
Make Art Project January 21 2017
Artist Talk at North Island College, Feb. 7 2017
The day to day flow of observation, reaction, politics, inter personal relations, desires , conflict and reflection, exposure to a barrage of imagery, ideas and news, passions and refusal to accept while linking multiple pasts into the contemporary inform the paintings of Jeroen Witvliet, who, in response stubbornly embraces that which could be called the Poetic.
It is through his practice that Jeroen Witvliet is hoping to stumble across a different way to make a connection with reality, to go beyond the immediacy of the first meeting and explore the realm that opens up when focusing more intently and repeatedly on a contemporary encounter. Linking these encounters to history, uncertainty of memory, notions of truth, power, dominance and manipulation in an attempt to get to the beyond of what we can describe, speak of or can define form an integral part of Witvliet's research and practice.
The whispering areas where the paint dissolves into something else, the silence in between the lines, the images at the periphery always escaping our focus and a certain unease permeates his work.
"My work is the exploration of visuals, in paint, related to the everyday of others. With a sense of wonder, anger and frustration, humor, loss, romanticism and at times sarcasm this project allows for the material quality of paint to become, be and fail. Painting's discarded and often challenged right to be combined with a stubborn refusal to leave and play nice has come as close to the other as can be, or so it appears."
Within his practice Witvliet attempts to find what lies beyond that of what he can speak or can define. It is through his practice that he is hoping to stumble across a different way to make a connection with reality, to go beyond the immediacy of the first encounter and explore the realm that opens up when focusing more intently and repeatedly on a contemporary encounter. For Jeroen, memory drives many of the images that he creates. Shifting moments, historical uncertainty and a desire to understand human relations creates doubt and questions the ability to remember and connect fully to time and history. The day to day flow of observation, reaction and reflection, linking multiple pasts into the contemporary leads him to stubbornly embrace that which could be called the Poetic.
Witvliet undermines the first acceptance of the image as a container of observation, association and possible truth. "It might be a faint attempt to question realities follies and our relationship to the visual on my part, but this questioning is a necessity for me. I will be damned if I trust my own senses to be informing me of a factual understanding of the world". The painted surfaces shift constantly as if they were slowly fainting memories being replaced by different interpretations and a new way to mediate the visible world. Many times the surface is darkened and reduced to an almost monochromatic surface where everything and nothing takes place. Witvliet uses a wide range of images and sketches as a starting point for paintings and drawings. Many of these images come from memory. When he thinks about a particular event it might become connected to other places and times. The images are therefore manipulated further; information is being added, removed or obscured. At times Witvliet only draws and paints from memory having the image quality become obscured as if a filter has been applied. The surface of the painting can vary in quality from smooth to scraped and textural.
"The passing of time obscures and manipulates the memory of an event and our understanding of reality. Experiencing the now is linked to that most peculiar way time is being felt differently at certain occasions and is experienced many a time differently between individuals depending on circumstance. Time and reality are in my view linked in-explicitly. Whatever it is I try to represent becomes the more interesting to me when it escapes definition and becomes in it self not just referential but infused with a sense of defiance, the poetic, the unexplainable".
Mark Ruis 2015
As a way of investigating space and an in attempt to understand my position and reaction to place, history, relationship of any form, art and current situations I paint.
Recently I have focused on debris piles and their ambiguous origins.
The piles are recognized to be accumulations of a history that might still be visible or might be obscured. The situation that led to the formation of the pile has become an enigma. If anything the piles have become an abstraction. In their form and shapes landscapes can be discovered. The remnants of events and situations have become the basis for a new landscape. Faint echoes of shelters, ribs, pallets, trees and roots all create a sense of the presence of a raft. A raft lost at sea, a raft that attempts to provide shelter. The raft of the Medusa by Gericault has served as a starting point on occasion.
I used to use a wide range of images of piles as a starting point for the paintings and drawings. The images are being manipulated; information is being added or removed. Barricades erected in the streets become indistinguishable from piles of construction site materials left after the building of houses. Humans are removed from the scenes to further strengthen the removal from direct reference. All drawings and paintings are now done from memory. Many have a form of shelter built into them.
I have been intrigued by the way piles, statues and memorial sites are a result and expression of a time bound, subjective interpretation of history.
Temporary events are constantly related to and measured against previous situations, history and art history. Events, especially current, seem the last hooray of an incubation period. Images of barricades thrown up in the street seem to talk about the tensions that grew under the surface, accumulating in a reaction. Shelters that are erected throughout cities speak of another form of incubation and reaction.
While working on ideas in a studio, my creative process is responsive to the world and is equally subjected to and informed by an incubation period.
When painting and drawing greenhouses I am creating sheltered situations. These are structures that protect and nourish seedlings. When I roam through a city I find many places of temporary shelter, created out of many different materials. These don’t shelter growth but mainly the outcasts. The density of the piles is being contrasted with the glass surfaces of the greenhouses. My approach is one of lyricism, using the structures as symbols. In them I create situations that are sometimes poetic, sometimes unbelievable. In this series I am giving myself the freedom to manipulate whatever grows inside the sheltered situation and hijack the structures that are left as debris piles. I do what I feel is necessary to make a drawing or painting that functions on many different levels.
It has become unclear if a pile references defeat, victory or apathy or if a greenhouse holds the promise for a future.
Jeroen Witvliet 2011
BR I D G E
BR I D G E
at the Slide Room Gallery, Victoria BC
October 7 at 1800
OPEN SPACE, Victoria BC Canada
Event: Realities Follies
Opening: Friday, January 9 to Saturday, February 21, 2015
Exhibition: Friday, January 9, 2015
Realities Follies surveys the work of five painters; Jeremy Herndl, Todd Lambeth, Rick Leong, Neil McClelland, and Jeroen Witvliet.
Curators Lynda Gammon (UVic Visual Arts Department) and Wendy Welch (Vancouver Island School of Art) observe: “We live in an image-world. Selfies on Facebook, instant sharing on Instagram, and photo albums on Flickr, all demonstrate our intense desire to re-present our world. Through the practice of painting, the artists in this exhibition, each in their own way, are re-presenting and interrogating the meaning of representation, and in turn, questioning our ways of perceiving reality.”
Realities Follies opens Friday evening at 7:00 pm, January 9, 2015 at Open Space. The artists and curators will meet in a panel discussion on Saturday, January 17 at 2:00 pm.
Day / Night / Day At Zerp Galerie, Rotterdam The Netherlands
21/06/2015 - 19/07/2015
Contemporary Art Gallery
Van Oldenbarneveltstraat 120A
Day / Night / Day
Paintings: Jeroen Witvliet
Photography: Jan de Bruin, Fiona Weir, Tineke Schuurmans, Wouter le Duc
Sculptures: Jeroen Kuster
KELOWNA ART GALLERY, Kelowna BC CANADA
Jeroen Witvliet: Wayfarer
July 25 to Oct 18, 2015
Entering Days, Jeroen Witvliet’s epic drawings loom, overpower any thought brought to the Slide Room Gallery threshold, drawing one completely into his disquieting and imposing work. Drenched with charcoal biting stark, thick white paper, attentively drawn distressed entanglements emphasize spectacle, vistas of loaded feelings conspicuous in heaps of tousled matter and defeated branches. There is a line in Aristotle’s poetics Part IV that this work embodies, ‘Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity’. () With commitment to detail, Witvliet produces contemplative stanzas of a tragic poem. Days drawings are knotty discussions about ruin providing startling lucid factious narratives. His imagery taunts our perception of how days of time influence disaffecting internal conflicts.
Unlike Webster and Noble's trash pieces that create coy figurative shadows projected from the waste configuration, Witvliet’s debris piles, although seemingly rendered as haphazard, are judicious figuration explorations as well as suspended ground, a composite relation. With the intensely described veneer of ruin the remnants of civilization’s abandon and forestal foray figuratively repose as mounds. Versed in quantification and evaluation of remains, Days untitled drawings exhibit a range of possibilities for correlated dissemination, while considering its impact, and resolve, heroically complex.
From Russell Perkins', Adorno's Dreams and the Aesthetic of Violence. Telos 155 (Summer 2011). :
Adorno is never merely a passive bystander to suffering. [...] we see that insight into violence only becomes possible when neutrality is foregone for standpoints of ambivalent participation, and thus that the suspension of the category of witness becomes the very condition of possibility for testimony.
Theodor W. Adorno, (1903 –1969), German sociologist, philosopher and musicologist, known for his critical theories of cultural industry, with Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), had insight into the passive danger imposed on human needs by mass consumption.() Compositional vocabulary, whether sound or visual composition, relates the audience to cultural dissonance when presented with intense scenarios as seen in Days. An Adorno like metaphor, the passivity of elegant debris ambivalently engages is a witness to violent disregard, a poignantly portrayed testament - Schoenbergian atonality personified. WithDays, we see that Witvliet also is not a bystander to suffering because his work is a demonstration of universal untamed forces that disseminate within us all. Days is evidence, imagery dishevelled with violent overtones.
Witvliet’s Days has uncanny erotic tension within the load of implicit piles of expressive remnants’ and/or broken branches coexisting, memories upon memories tangled. In Ralf Waldo Emerson’s poem, Days, he speaks of his ‘pleached’ garden. Witvliet’s pleached wreckage, woven with civilization’s discard and denuded trees is the Garden, reverential intimacy scorned. The politics of duplicity is inscribed in the torn and stinging lines he makes whipping up from the white paper wasteland, spilling shadow.
Orgone, Reich & Eros, Wilhelm Reich’s Theory of Life Energy by W. Edward Mann, on page 159, quotes from an article by Richard Martin, “Be Kind to Plants – Or You Could Cause a Violet to Shrink,” in The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, February 2, 1972 to substantiate Reich’s claim that ‘orgone energy pulsates through all living systems and that all are interdependent, existing in a kind of energy ocean.’ Wilhelm Reich called his hypothesized universal life force orgone. He claimed orgone is imparted from all organic material, which ostensibly can be captured with a booth-like device to restore psychological health.
Two of Witvliet’s drawings are plants under glass, or see-through boxes and there is another drawing of a seemingly abandoned greenhouse snugly enclosed by a mishmash of forest debris – the residual forest darkness standing distant. Hans Haacke's "Condensation Cube" (1963), displays transformative energy as condensation, collected or at least contained, without vegetation because Haacke has transplanted weather indoors, detached from growth, and presumably orgone. Witvliet’s greenhouse rendering, with this theory, is a very big organic energy collection box with a spiritual aesthetic seen in Gerhard Richter’s Iceberg in Fog (Eisberg im Negel) (2002). Human interaction has forced the forest surround into submission, while the trees still stand behind the greenhouse are expectant reminders of how energy can be cultivated, although, directed by human foible amassed energy can also abuse, destroy. Witvliet measures our collective psychological health and tells us the forest is shrinking, and our energy ocean is as segregated and minimal as a Haacke condensation cube. This is not a theory.
In a video performance, a reinvention of Allan Kaprow’s Art is Life (1964/2008), at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) presented by Outpost for Contemporary Art on April 19, 2008, a segment called “Household Revisited”, where (according to MOCA) ‘Peaceniks, Treehuggers and other Believers’, in the midst of household debris (some human size), chant:
We lie where we will
What if every cell in our body is in dialogue with all there is?
Imagine the world you can’t imagine.
Imagine being accepted.
Junk, piles of people.
Household remnants strewn and piled in a field was a rebellion against the accoutrements of banality, while the Believers implore for liberation from the idea that people represent themselves by what they own. Witvliet’s immobilized masses of liberated stuff, many pieces laded in handsome adjacent squares, networks of distribution, and even muddled masses spare the association of ‘Junk, piles of people’. Figurative, yes, but his imagination has been long liberated from literal references, enabling mottled shreds of interactions to blanket the mounds.
On 11 September 2012, The UK daily, the Telegraph reported (),”the massive floating islands of garbage, some almost 70 miles in length, caused by last month’s tsunami in Japan, which are causing chaos in shipping lanes in the Pacific Ocean, as they slowly head for the west coast of the America.” As Witvliet’s piles seem to float, they do incite a kind of chaos, blockage, a revelation of a disturbance and trauma. In his artist statement, he refers to the image within his refuse drawings as, “A raft lost at sea.”
In Jorge Luis Borges’ preface to "The Invention of Morel", a novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, about an island of intrigue, he writes that full freedom leads to full disaster, global warming’s weather demise contributing, as the news item above attests. What Borges calls the fictitious nature of politics as a means to freedom through the ordering of society is punishingly unable to originate mysterious, and reasonable facts the author, Casares can contrive. We have to wonder about the politics of materialism that the floating ocean island of debris in the news above created, and what disorder allows the menace to continue to pollute. Witvliet’s islands of dishevelled matter are the result of unrestrained loads, where chaos has created the enigma of mess and confusion. What Witvliet creates is a delicate wisdom, as Borges would say, to transcribe intangible, mysterious veracity. Magritte said, ‘The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.” () Witvliet, akin to Borges’ Casares, renders the unknown as archetypal insight and with his mindful power of depiction, articulates the mysterious with demonstrative candour.
In Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, Enigma, hiding the name of a fellow poet in its text, to express how she was unacknowledged in her lifetime, he writes, “through all the flimsy things we see at once”[...]”Trash of all Trash”. [...]”But this is now – you may depend upon it –/Stable, opaque, immortal – all by dint/Of the dear names that he concealed within’t.” The enigma, here being the baffling unknown reason his friend’s poetry was not recognized in spite of her profundity. Witvliet’s drawings, too are veiled gems, enigmatic discourses on life’s inconsistency and the mortal need for rapport. As we, with ambivalence render our vision opaque, we are reticent to see the concealments of powerful, universal truths in perilous collections of thought as his piles of debris describe. Witvliet’s Days is significant, enduring memory that pictures weighted introspection. His denouement of our collective tragedy, the revelation is confrontational pain. Through the mourning of Days, we are wakening.
 Adorno, T. W., with Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002. 242.
 René Magritte (1898-1967), Belgian surrealist painter. Quoted in Suzi Gablik, Magritte, ch. 1 (1970).