Some things in life are as they are, but they don’t always seem what they are.
One of these things is the way we see.
Our stereo view gives us an idea of space helped by linear perspective.
We tend to take this linear perspective for granted as a tool to automatically measure the distance around us.
However, perspective can play tricks on us and as such it has been used in art since the Renaissance.
By the end of the 15th century you can almost speak of a perspective-mania amongst painters; they all wanted their viewers to believe their paintings were three dimensional.
Architects have also known for centuries how to create space that isn’t really there by means of linear perspective.
There are many examples in architecture, one of the most famous is St. Peter’s Square in Rome which looks bigger than it really is as Bernini manipulated the height of the colonnades around it.
And that is the idea that clearly obsesses Reinoud Oudshoorn (1953): creating space that doesn’t exist.
Maybe that isn’t really the right description as space is already there; it can’t be created, whatever architects are trying to tell you.
Space can only be limited by walls and signs. In Oudshoorn’s work only these signs remain.
They are the signs of space that has never existed, they are the signs that create space in the mind of the viewer.
And it is real space in the sense that the signs are not two-dimensional, but it is not the space it pretends to be. Space, as anything in art, needs to be pretended.
Oudshoorn’s works look like carefully made and measured situations, but they are not just clever stuff; they invite you to look actively; it’s the art of seeing with its own playfulness and its own aesthetics.
No, let’s not talk about corona; no let’s not, please let’s not.
There is actually art on show which will present other aspects of the world to you which are as elementary (or even more….) as any virus and all policies around it.
At the moment at Dürst Britt & Mayhew’s there is Orienting Around with works by Yeşim Akdeniz (1978) and Marwan Bassiouni (1985) which deal with subjects associated with what was once called the Orient, or the Near East – today called the Middle East, which is just as remarkable but has nothing to do with the movement of tectonic plates.
Akdeniz shows five works from her recent series of textile works called Self portrait as an orientalist carpet – four of which are quite big and monumental – and an installation, also with textile.
Usually self portraits are approached as a kind of revelatory documents, but taking into account that any personal work of art is a kind of self portrait, Akdeniz’ self portraits are as revelatory as any other work of art.
As such Bassiouni’s photographs are as much self portraits, and they are revealing that what cannot be revealed: a divine presence, just a “presence”, a metaphysical world, a parallel world, or whatever one might call it.
On show are five works from his much acclaimed series New Dutch Views, which present the Dutch urban landscape through the windows of mosques.
While Bassiouni catches both the inner and outer world in his photographs, Akdeniz shows the materiality of who she is or isn’t, might or might not be, is or isn’t presumed to be, but in the end her works are as mysterious as the unseen in Bassiouni’s photographs, and have fortunately very little to do with the lingering identity-and-self hype of our era.
There is also one work on show from Bassiouni’s Prayer Rug Selfies series (presented before at Dürst Britt & Mayhew’s and discussed in Villa La Repubblica here).
There is however a difference between Prayer Rug Selfies and New Dutch Visions in that the Selfies – apart from being in black and white – are smaller, more intimate, more based on performance, while the Visions are more monumental and collage-like.
In their monumentality they are a very strong counterpart to Akdeniz’ Self portraits.
Her textiles are probably the biggest surprise of the show; in their monochrome monumentality they tend to absorb the viewer almost immediately, and sturdy as they look like, they are sensitive and mysterious at the same time.
In the front space of the gallery Pieter Paul Pothoven (1981), in his show TK15223, presents four jigsaw pieces of his lapis lazuli project, which he took up again after a long period of more intellectual work.
Once raw material for the most brilliant and colourfast blue in the art world, ultramarine, which had to be imported all the way from Afghanistan, and which was as such more valuable than gold, lapis lazuli is still mined in Afghanistan, as Pothoven saw when he was there in 2009.
He had some the raw lapis lazuli containing rocks transported back home and last year he grinded them and separated the costly blue material from the other components in different ways.
He retained the grinded structure of the different variants of the more and less pure ultramarine as well as dust of the stone from which the costly blue was extracted, and framed it with postal material and crates with which the stones had been shipped, which, in Pothoven’s work, has a more metaphorical meaning of history, value, hard labour and the different faces of power.
Hence both very fine shows tell something about “the Orient”, its historic and its present day perceptions, but, what’s more, they show works by three artists with great imaginative power, which we need in these dark days.
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