17 January - 15 March 2009
A twenty-four page newspaper constitutes the main part of an exhibition of work by Luuk Wilmering (Haarlem, 1957) in De Pont's project space. Not only in terms of appearance, but also as far as content is concerned, Heel Ander Blad (Very Different Paper) has everything a newspaper should have: from the striking photo and daily cartoon on the front page to the columns and obituaries; from domestic and international news pages to the art and financial sections. Within that familiar framework Luuk Wilmering plays disruptively with fact and fiction.
"As lovely as the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of an umbrella and a sewing machine," writes the nineteenth-century French poet Isidore Ducasse in his Songs of Maldoror. Wilmering's Heel Ander Blad is the result of a similar encounter on just such a table. Over the past three years he has clipped hundreds of newspaper headings, articles, photographs and illustrations from the NRC Handelsblad and assembled them in a new way. "Nog even wachten op alledaagse uitzichtloosheid," (Wait another minute for everyday hopelessness) reads one of the headings. Starting with the awareness that what the media offer us is anything but an objective and complete account of what goes on in the world, Wilmering has worked his way back to the chaotic reality from which the news came. The tone of Heel Ander Blad shifts back and forth between the melancholy and the lighthearted. Humor and banality, profoundness and absurdism jostle for predominance. In among the visually dense areas of words and images are spots of white, resembling the 'terra incognita' on ancient maps of the world. Despite questions raised by the headings and leads made from newspaper clippings, they do happen to be correct in terms of language. That can also be said about the photographs; the proportions and incidence of light 'make sense', and although the characters have been taken from a wide variety of images, they appear to relate to each other in their new settings.
The collages of images function not only within the context of the newspaper; Wilmering has also used some of them as the basis for paintings, his first in twenty years. These images have been applied to the canvas with the aid of an inkjet printer and partially reworked with oil paint. The formal interplay of the inkjet print and the manual brushstroke give the works an abstraction not found in the newspaper photographs. Furthermore, the monumental scale of the work plays a significant role in the aesthetic experience. In terms of size, the paintings rival the seventeenth-century group portraits of prominent citizens shown at the Frans Halsmuseum; as far as the depiction is concerned, they bear a surprising resemblance to genre paintings from that time. These two elements provide a magnified view of the spirit of the times. In Wilmering's work that involves violence, sex and Islamophobia; and just as in paintings by Jan Steen, the artist has his scenes taking place 'out on the street' in order to draw the viewer into the ambiguous world of the image.
For Heel Ander Blad existing texts and images have been cut into pieces; in Index the 4500 newspaper headings which make up this nine-part work have been left intact and arranged in alphabetical order. Standing in tight rows and consisting of a uniform typeface, the headings bombard us with abrupt information: a both reliable and pointless chronicle of the fleeting news. For his adaptations and reconstructions, Wilmering employs an extremely meticulous and time-consuming collage technique. That way of working seems almost anachronistic in a time when reality can easily be manipulated with Photoshop. By confining himself to what is actually in front of him, Wilmering wishes to avoid just that. Not only in the slow pace of the work done by the artist does time make itself felt. The viewer, too, is encouraged to slow down. Only then can he enjoy the subtle nuances of color in pieces of newspaper and gradations of ink; only then can he discover all sorts of new and hidden meanings. But at the same time that viewer will gradually experience the uneasy feeling of having lost his grasp of what he sees and reads.