This autumn, the exhibition Afterimage (Nabeeld) will be on display at PARK, along with the work of artists who participated in a working period at the guest studio of the Vincent van GoghHuis in Zundert. I spoke with Rob Moonen — artist, initiator and a member of the PARK working group — about the exhibition, the collaboration with the Vincent van GoghHuis, a residency’s ‘afterimage’ and the importance of residencies for artists.
How did the idea for this exhibition come about?
‘As the PARK working group, we noticed there were many parallels between the artists housed at the Vincent van GoghHuis and the artists we exhibit here at PARK. After contacting Ron Dirven of the Vincent van GoghHuis, he invited us to come for a month to experience what a residence there is like. Given that four people could not possibly work there at the same time, we decided that each person would stay for a week. We chose to approach the stay from the perspective of our own artistic career.
Thus, to try to fathom the place, to comprehend it, through our individual artwork. Spending a week in a place thoroughly imbued with Van Gogh — that is, if you’re open to the experience, got us thinking about how the other residents experienced their stay and, in particular, what remains of the encounter with that place once you’ve returned to your own studio?
Can you tell us more about the content of the exhibition and how your artists were selected?
‘Every artist who has a residency at the Vincent van GoghHuis donates an artwork he or she created during the working period to their collection. During our month-long residency at the guest studio, we scheduled a meeting for the four of us on the day that we would switch out, and we viewed this collection. This project is explicitly about the collaboration with the Vincent van GoghHuis; but, in terms of content, the decisions were made by PARK. It’s truly all about the visual arts at PARK, a symbol that can be seen or experienced, and the choice of artists was in keeping with our exhibitions.’
‘For this exhibition, we viewed the residency as a kind of pivot point. The artists all stayed for a month. We wanted to show what had developed during the course of the residency, but also how that stay continues to echo throughout the work produced afterward. The afterimage indicates just how valuable such a residency can be. Are you merely offering an artist temporary accommodation or does it yield more artistically?’
‘The exhibition shows all the pieces that we selected from the collection of the Vincent van GoghHuis. We then asked the artists which artwork they wished to show, bearing in mind the following two-part question: To what extent did working in that context — the confrontation with the spirit of Van Gogh or whatever you want to call it, have an effect? And how can this be traced in your current work? For some, this was very clearly demonstrable. For others, that effect was contained in the idea or the working process itself. We want this exhibition to express the diverse experiences of a residency like this. Take the paintings of Koen Vermeule: the reclining Vincent in the studio was painted in the guest studio of the Vincent van GoghHuis; the other three works were made this year. Vermeule focuses more on the spiritual aspect, on how you perceive the environment. It cannot be compared, for instance, to how Lennart Lahuis thought in the guest studio about the impermanence of texts and began experimenting with texts written in water and what remains of them. His works are about temporality and transparency. Although the artwork of these two artists is nearly diametrically opposed, the underlying relationship, what unites them, is that they were both there for a month.’
Did you also produce work during the residency?
‘Certainly. The goal behind it was to get to the bottom of that place. In any case, for me this was an opportunity to block out a week and to dive into the material. I found it extremely valuable to work for long hours and to decide for myself when to stop. Each of us, in our own way, did something in response to the encounter with Van Gogh. I began reading about Vincent van Gogh. The anniversary of Van Gogh’s death happens to be my birthday, so I delved into that story. What happened on the days leading up to his death? There are so many vague stories. In the end, I found a picture of the pistol that Vincent may have used to shoot himself in the stomach. The pistol had been in the Van Gogh Museum collection for many years before being sold. So, I took that image as my starting point for creating a bronze pendant.’
What can you say about the importance of a residency for an artist?
‘What I found important was the ability to work undisturbed for a week, and I think it was the same for my colleagues. You’re away for a week, in a different environment. All the everyday noise is shoved aside, and you can focus on your work or anything else of your choice. This gives you the opportunity, space and time to engage in something that is not so obvious. You can work in a more concentrated fashion, delve deeper into something and produce a lot more.’
‘Residencies are invaluable. You’re out of your comfort zone and working in an alien environment. Especially when abroad, where you can even be kind of exotic. The confrontation with the other context is truly fascinating. Creating a free space for artists is crucial. And the trust third parties place in an artist: “Here’s the space, time and a bit of money, go ahead and do something.” Some of the works you see here could not have been made without that stay.’
The exhibition Afterimage, which will run until 25 October 2020, displays work by Ronny Delrue, Florette Dijkstra, Arpaïs Du Boi, Heringa/Van Kalsbeek, Wiesje Peels & Steffen Maas, Lennart Lahuis, Lieven Segers, Koen Vermeule and Renée van Trier.
Author: Ruth de Vos