In Josilda da Conceição Gallery the exhibition ‘Nice and Slowly’ is currently on show, showing work by three young artists: Bernardus Baldus, Jean-Philippe Paumier and Jelle van Houten. These three artists may differ in their approach, but what connects them is the extent to which research is the driving force within their practice.
Bernardus Baldus, whose work was featured in the Prospects & Concepts section at Art Rotterdam this year, divides his time between Berlin and Utrecht. Before becoming an artist, he completed a master's degree in law in Leiden. He subsequently studied at the St. Joost Academy of Art and Design and at Sint Lucas in Antwerp. In Baldus' work, we often see abstractions of universal locations that he considers to be non-places because they have little or no social or architectural identity and lack style and authenticity. Because of that, they evoke a wide variety of contrasting responses. Think, for example, of airports, highways, subway stations and cold hotel rooms, but also of the impersonal aesthetics that we associate with corporate culture from the 1980s onwards. Branding plays a major role in that, but the formulaic aspect of this branding causes a loss of identity and individuality. What happens when you study these individual and impersonal style characteristics and subsequently isolate, conceptualise and enlarge them? Baldus’ choice of materials also reflect elements from this often superficial lifestyle: from consumerism to gentrification.
Like Baldus, the French artist Jean-Philippe Paumier examines consumerism and mass production with an inquisitive look, but in the tradition of Duchamp's 'ready-mades'. Like Duchamp, Paumier takes everyday objects out of their original context: for example, an orange citrus press with orange and human-like teeth for friction. The original function of these objects is counterbalanced by a new conceptual, poetic and aesthetic value that was previously hidden. By removing the usefulness of the object, it is possible to look more clinically at its colour, material and conceptual potential. But Paumier does not consider his sculptures and installations to be absurdist, because his work is, in his own words, not about the meaning of existence. His goal is to make us look at the objects around us in a different way. For his installation 'Kings don't touch doors' (2018), he made wall rails that consisted of soap, referencing the French poet Francis Ponge, who reviewed many everyday objects (including soap) in his work. In this exhibition, we see a black diving bottle, attached to a heavy bowling ball that is balancing against the wall, semi-weightless. The other works on show also seem to reflect this contrast between light and heavy.
In contrast, Jelle van Houten, who graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2019, focuses on his daily landscape. Fascinated by the ways in which people are able to adapt to their surroundings in an almost automatic and highly efficient way, Van Houten creates situations in which people and nature seem to have no clear function. Using physical and historical research as his basis, he looks at the ways in which coincidences and accidents play a role in nature and the ways in which the landscapes are formed: naturally or manmade. The abstract paintings that result from this process can be seen in this exhibition. For his graduation project, Van Houten excavated clay-like earth from a river bed that he turned into dried building blocks, before transforming them into a temporary sculptural structure, subject to the changeability (and transience) of nature. For this project, he was inspired by Heraclitus' famous statement that you never step into the same river twice.