Reinoud van Vught

8 Sept 2007 - 6 Jan 2008
work in collection

Reinoud van Vught (Goirle 1960) is a painter to the core, and the act of painting itself has become one of his most important themes. Along with Marc Mulders, Paul van Dongen, Ronald Zuurmond and the sculptor Guido Geelen, he was part of the Tilburg School, a collaborative context of five artists, friends of each other, who carried out a number of joint projects and exhibitions between 2002 and 2006. About a year ago, their final presentation Noah’s Ark III was held at De Pont. 
Van Vught’s development has been followed by De Pont for years. From 1994 to 1995 the artist was given the use of the large guest studio (where the auditorium now stands); the exhibition Five works on paper was held at the end of this working period. De Pont has now organized a broader exhibition of his work, including roughly forty paintings and works on paper. The emphasis lies with recent paintings, in addition to a number of key works from previous years.  

The painting of Reinoud van Vught is marked by great visual diversity. That applies not only to the works in relation to each other; also individually, the paintings involve a juxtaposition of different approaches and ways of painting – as in a number of recent paintings, where organic shapes seem to float in a greyish blue space and are hidden from view by veil-like weaves. Van Vught’s abstract fields of color have been created by countless small blotches of color that have been spattered onto the canvas. The organic shapes have been painted in a rotating movement, whereas the veil-like configuration has been brought about by white paint, applied with a flat tool that has been drawn across the canvas in a broad, forceful movement. While these works display an ethereal subtlety, others stand out by way of their pronounced materiality. With the earliest works shown in the exhibition, the paint’s thick ‘skin’ seems to have been modelled like clay.

Work from around 1990 constitutes the key to Van Vught’s approach to painting. The way in which they have come about is both simple and surprising. During this period Van Vught had his studio in the attic of a former monastery in Tilburg. The statues of the Virgin Mary, crucifixes and other paraphernalia that he encountered there served as motifs. Not satisfied with his attempts at rendering these objects, however, he literally left the impression of a crucifix in the thick layer of paint on the canvas. With this gesture he demonstratively abandoned the idea that one’s immediate surroundings need to be portrayed by means of a brush and paint. Since then, the qualities of the paint and the support, as well as the highly diverse ways in which these can be used, have been the point of departure for his work. But this process of painting is anything but systematic or methodical; his way of working is too intuitive for that, and he himself wants to be surprised by what happens on the canvas.

Having no preconceived plan, Van Vught lets himself be guided by the material; he allows for the partly unpredictable behavior of thinly or thickly applied paint, prepared or unprepared canvas, of paper previously soaked with water or a surface into which impressions of plants have been incorporated. In order to minimize his physical distance from the medium, he paints his works on the floor of the studio – spattering with a brush, making rotating movements with his hands or wiping the canvas with a squeegee. The technique must not become routine. Seeking the very pointed edge, where things work well or don’t work at all, Van Vught builds the painting, layer by layer, in a succession of multiple actions that ultimately converge into a meaningful whole. That point of completion, though not possible to define, can indeed be experienced. It can, at most, be described as the point where the particular and the general maintain a balance with each other, and the ambiguity creates room for associations.

From Van Vught’s point of view, the painting should transcend the actual account of his own painterly process; a much broader narrative of its creation can be found in the work’s developmental history. In his large works on paper, the undulating surface and the ‘puddles’ of color are reminiscent of the area along a floodmark that comes into view as the sea gradually recedes. Sometimes the painted forms also call to mind an early stage of life, of organs or a beating heart. Other works, having vegetative forms, make one think of deterioration and decomposition. Those narratives cannot be brought about on command; Van Vught discovers them and, delighted at their appearance, allows them into his work.