First Things First 2006
CCNOA (center for contemporary non-objective art) in cooperation with the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK), Antwerp, is pleased to present the exhibition ‘First Things First’ featuring the work of four young artists, namely Elizabeth Haines, Clemens Hollerer, Barbora Klimova, and Leon Vranken, who are all attending the postgraduate course at the HISK.
The formal language of minimalism and post-minimalism remains to the present day an inexhaustible source of inspiration for young artists. Yet one can wonder - ironically or even cynically - how often a white monochrome canvas can be painted and exhibited, how many variations one can think up of a white cube, an empty pedestal, or a coloured wall.
But this is exactly what is amazing about the work of the generation of artists brought together in the First Things First exhibition at CCNOA. The variations on the familiar themes and motifs from a recent chapter of modernism are infinite. By strategies of shifts, reflections, minor re-orientations, the repetition of repetition, and the serialization of serialization, minimalist vocabulary can still be expanded and enriched. Though that said, this enrichment is also ambiguous because of the sins committed against some of the pure concepts of minimalism.
The works of the forefathers are not canonized, but rather seen as examples that can even be treated with disrespect. Dialects and contaminations occur. Also striking – and I don’t know whether this has to do with the DIY mentality of young cash-strapped artists – is a certain form of artisanship. The manual execution of the work is certainly not irrelevant in the case of Clemens Hollerer or Leon Vranken.
Clemens Hollerer (°1975, Austria) sees himself as a ’pupil’ of Blinky Palermo. A number of his works can be interpreted as distinct homages to the too early departed German artist. For the CCNOA show Hollerer, as he often does, starts with the given architectural space. Either a wall (as surface) or a skylight (as a composition grid) becomes part of his two- and three-dimensional spatial interventions. The fact that his objects are hand-painted adds to the pictorial vibration of the work. An interesting tension originates between the suspicion of industrial perfection and the confrontation with what is in the end a very humane and poetic execution.
The objects of Leon Vranken (°1975, Belgium) were also built or rather put together by the artist. The work he made for First Things First is even partly recycled. For the wooden structure of the display cabinet he used the frame and legs of an old pool table. In the cabinets Vranken brings together two preoccupations. On the one hand he plays with the meaning of the cabinet object as a display cabinet in which the artwork (or valuable object) is both presented and intensified (because of the segregation). On the other hand he deconstructs the cabinets in such a way that they become sculptures in their own right.
The work of Elizabeth Haines (°1980, United Kingdom) always generates a special relationship with the spectator and often plays with notions of presence and absence. Each artwork has to be mentally completed to be fully understood. The processing of the information provided to the spectator in a fragmented, sequential or slowed-down way is one of the undercurrents of her work. This issue, related to minimalism, is shaped in various media, from sculptures or large installations to video works. For CCNOA Elizabeth Haines is preparing a video work in which the image of a flying falcon is center stage. The image is spread over several monitors, complicating the experience of time and space.
Barbora Klimova (° 1977, Czech Republic) intervenes in both urban public spaces, and public and private interiors. Even though the formal intervention is what is noticed first, her work has much more to do with the relationship between and the behaviour of people in a specific space and with the historical or social context. The minimalist imagery of both the art of the sixties and seventies and the reinterpretation of this idiom in recent art, design, and architecture come together in new approaches and redefinitions of spaces and objects. For the CCNOA show Barbora Klimova charts new paths by using video recordings of performances by Czech artists of the seventies and showing them in different spatial and socio-economic contexts. The (difference in) behaviour of the viewing public is what interests her most.
There are always more reasons for not bringing together specific artists in an exhibition than vice versa. Despite these reasons, the combination of these four artists is more than legitimate. The fact that they are all attending the postgraduate course at the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) in Antwerp could be seen as an arbitrary criterion. Being born between 1975 and 1980 would be a bit less so. But the way they react to the inheritance of art from the sixties and seventies, more particularly minimal art, definitely is not. And the many strategies at hand to tackle these issues make this generation of artists intriguing. (Hans Martens, Artistic Director, HISK Antwerp)