THE EXHIBITIONISTS
2020

In a number of sculptural wall-pieces, I engaged myself with the object-quality of the painted canvass, a topos that is as widely discussed as it is shrugged off. The ambiguity that a painting, performed on the front side of a stretched canvass, consists not only of the visual content of the painted surface, but also of the structure supporting this surface, is an aspect of experiencing paintings that is generally ignored, or just taken for granted. For obvious reasons, one could argue, since these structures are only supporting indeed, and are formally relatively identical in the vast majority of painted artworks. Other known existing forms are paintings on panels, or on objects- as done by MagritteM and PicassoP- to name a few. There is reverse glass painting, where the supporting structure starts to dissolve into invisibility and there are murals, starting with the cave-paintings of LascauxL, which can be considered as the most rudimentary manifestation of applying paint to a surface.

If painting is an element in the periodic table of visual arts, the painted canvass has been established as the most common allotrope of painting. The simple reason of this is not an artistic one, but a commercial one. The stretched or un- and re-stretchable canvass accommodates the career of paintings becoming commodities through their transportability. 

One could open up another layer of reflection on the essence of painting by considering that merely the surface of the applied paint is visible, and its material mass underneath is ignored. This sculptural notion of paint as a material with a body and a surface of course comes forward not only in the works of those painters who apply thick paste-like volumes of paint, and is visible in, for instance, the paint-sculptures of Glenn Brown2.
This latter notion is relevant to me and to my work, since it considers both paint and painting to be materials, which together make up for the sum total of a painting.

The works that I refer to in the opening of this text are reconstructed canvas-shapes executed in black and white rubber with no paint involved. I first worked sheets of rubber into the shape of a canvas that is stretched around a stretcher, but with the actual stretcher being omitted. The bottom side of this de-stretchered canvass I then turned inside out.
This results in the visible surface of the canvas to be identified as being the front of the canvas at the top, changing to be the reverse side at the bottom. So, a viewer is visually exposed to the front of the canvass as to its reverse side at the same time. As an accidental bonus effect, the middle part of the canvass that is neither folded to the back nor to the front is opened to its full width, and contributes to a shape that suggests a generous opening up, inviting all, revealing all, exhibitionist in every sense of the word.

The shape appears to be simple, perhaps even obvious, but is definitely not, it inhibits qualities of what Donald Judd called a ‘specific object’1: it is neither painting nor sculpture, it focuses on the purity of its form.

For my work, this shape represents a lot of aspects of art that I find essential: it is recognisable, yet puzzling, it incorporates what is shown and what is not shown, it is a simple form, it operates on a physical level and is affected by gravity, it refers to itself. And it is a positive form.

Initially I focussed on the sculptural aspect of this painting-semantic shape by executing these in the unpainterly material of rubber3
Later I made a number of these ‘exhibitionists’ in acrylic paint on linen and on cotton. Bi-coloured canvasses on which I painted one ore more white BIC-lighters, lighting a stable lighter flame. I titled these in variations of what they are: an honour and a pleasure4.

3: Works referred to are, amongst others, Nonmember(Thick), Plakat and Haengung 4: Works referred to are, amongst others, Eine Freude und eine Ehre, Drei Freuden und Drei Ehren and High Esteem


© Geerten Verheus