From November 7 until November 30, 2007, you can visit my exhibition 'Local weather conditions'. In the text below you'll find some background information about this exhibition:
LOCAL WEATHER CONDITIONS:
July, 2007. I am busy with the first exhibition I’ve had in a long time. I have built a wall on the veranda of my home to work on. When facing the wall and looking right, the first things I see are the neighbor’s houses (of which one is pink and the other lime green) on the hill sloping toward the ocean. Next, I see a line of trees, and then the ocean, with the sky above it. On a distance, on the other side of the ocean, is the country of Venezuela. During the dark nights of the rain period, the sky over Venezuela looks like a movie screen, on which a film about flashes is projected. The sound of the thunder does not reach our shore – even when there is no wind at all, it is all quiet on the veranda. All we see in the smothering heat is a faraway and silent web of flashes.
The rest of my view consists of Mundi. Thorny shrubbery covers the ground, and it is a terrain similar to the Mediterranean maquis scrubland, only the mundi is more dense and mixed with cactuses and poisonous trailing plants. The trailers are most likely parasites, although it is unclear what they feed of if not the beautiful but even more poisonous Manzanilla trees, which sap leaves painful blisters on the skin. Manzanilla trees are the only type of trees that can survive on a beach consisting of sand only, where it offers shade to playing children. In my garden, which separates the veranda from the mundi, there are hardly any plants at all, besides from a large mango tree. However, there is a rich animal life. There are iguanas and other reptiles, hummingbirds, goats that have forced their way through the garden fence, wild dogs and lots of chicken and roosters. And scorpions. The animals have chosen to live so close to the house not because they have lost their natural fear of humans, but because there is just about nothing that could be worse for them than their natural environment. The mundi, I think, is complicated and to discover its charm takes a bit of effort. However, it is a type of nature that I keep finding increasingly interesting by each year (I have lived here for almost four years now).
Incidentally, everything I have painted in the past year has been attempts to familiarize myself with the particulars of the Antillean landscape. I may start out from a small detail, a pattern, or a color combination, or more fleetingly from a rhythm in the air, the shifting of the seasons, or a certain characteristic in nature.
The works in the exhibition can be divided into large and small paintings. Those two categories have the same basic theme, but start out from different viewpoints.
I consider the fact that I am not well familiar with the landscape I am trying to describe pictorially to be more of an advantage than not. To paint is to explore and to find the way towards something that is complete and whole. My large paintings are very tentative in nature, and requires a bit of time from the viewers. The size and the cautious approach gave me the resistance I needed to keep the tension alive long enough for me to find myself in the work. Also, the high degree of abstraction in these paintings would hardly have worked in a smaller format. The large size makes the paintings more accessible. However, my small pieces, which are painted on wood, are very different in this respect. Each individual painting (20 x 22 cm) is intended to work as an independent unit – even though they are all better off when viewed as a group. Together, they form a large mosaic consisting of blue and white tiles, which hopefully convey a sense of completeness that enhances and alleviates the heaviness of my larger paintings.
Each painting depicts the sliver of ocean and sky that I see from my position on the veranda. There is first the clear water, then the color turquoise closest to the shore, and lastly the dark blue at the point where the great depths begin. Above this are the pale blue sky and the big yellow sun – all together a perfect picture of the Caribbean as we know it.
But what does the sky really look like? And how about the relationship between the sky and the ocean? A common view of tropical environments is that all colors are clear and saturated. In the local tradition of painting, the relations between the colors are not the priority – central instead is the idea of a tropical (human) temperament that is expressed by way of color, which as a consequence is highly charged. But how is the tropical landscape to be understood by an outsider? I have found this question intriguing enough to paint an extensive series of paintings based on the same motif, only at different times of the day, under different weather conditions, and during a longer time period. My aim has been to stay as true as possible to what I see during a given moment. This exploration has become as much about the weather as about painting. And it is here that we find the greatest difference between the large and the small paintings. The large paintings are more about themselves and painting, than about the landscape that were their starting point.
Besides for the beach and the ocean and the Mundi on the mountains, there are another two types of nature on Curacao. There is the barren and sparsely populated north coast – an open plateau between the mountains and the coast line consisting of black and volcanic cliffs that have been shaped by the rough surges of the ocean. The north coast is covered with a fine layer of red soil and cracked clay. The thought of a desert inevitably comes to mind here, or a very dry prairie.
Finally, there are the coral reefs, and everything that we may find under the water. The underwater views have had a positive influence on my attempts to paint monochromes, that is, paintings in only one color. Canvases covered with a flat coat of paint in only one color are a type of monochromes which we may associate with painters such as Kazimir Malevich and Yves Klein. Such an approach could very well be interesting, but it seems just a bit too conspicuous. However, there is another type of monochrome (I don’t know of any better term) as well, a bit more tentative in nature, in which the painter’s intention becomes visible through the attempts to extend the color in different directions, and even the addition of an additional color, in which case we no longer have a pure monochrome. The pictures I am thinking of in this tradition have always has an alluring effect on me, yet they are too closely associated with their original authors to make my own attempts along the same line believable (the painters I am primarily thinking of are Per Kirkeby and Ellsworth Kelly).
I had never considered making monochrome paintings until I came to Curacao and was faced with the mundi and the water when diving, seeing the colors slowly die out in the increasing depths of the water. At the deepest, the last color remaining is the blue, just before all the light fades and everything goes dark. At the depth of 12 meters (I think), everything is blue – but by no means monotonous.
Curacao, July, 2007