Werner Moonen

Arnolfini

29 May - 25 July 2010

The exhibition of drawings by Werner Moonen (Ghent 1940) in De Pont's project space pays tribute to this Tilburg artist on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Ever since his art school days, Moonen has continued to work in Tilburg. During the 1960s he gained a reputation as a subtle graphic artist who often experimented with unusual techniques. From the mid eighties on, painting and drawing began to assume increasing importance in his body of work. He also became involved in photography, which he 'reinvented' with his own approach to pinhole photography, taken from the Frenchman Joseph Nièpce (1765-1833). From 1982 to 2000 Moonen taught at the Academie St. Joost in Breda. Among his students were Marc Mulders, Reinoud van Vught and Rob Birza, artists whose work can be found in De Pont's collection.

The drawings of Werner Moonen might best be viewed where many of them were made: at the dinner table. While leafing through old law books and cashbooks that he picked up in secondhand bookshops, we come across them between the existing pages. That nearly careless form of presentation—scattered among the pages of a book, against the background of printed paper—heightens the character of the drawings as intimate explorations. Usually they are done with a brush in watercolor, ink or bistre, occasionally with a ballpoint. Sometimes the intuitive lines remain as powerful marks, and often they become condensed to form spaces, a map or abstracted human figures.

A recurrent theme in his work is Jan van Eyck's portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his young bride. For the past fifteen years Moonen has been fascinated with this small painting from 1434. In a great number of drawings he has attempted to fathom its perspective, its color and the artist's intentions. At times he zooms in on the figures and marvels at Arnolfini's cloak, which has the shape of Marcel Duchamp's bottle rack; but he might also focus on the painting's sanctified middle area, or take a step back and try to determine the spot where Jan van Eyck sat on his chair, in the backlighting of a window. The zooming in continues through the window and outside, where Moonen says we can see sunflowers on looking closely, through the window in Van Eyck's painting. The matter-of-factness with which Moonen deals with the painting by Van Eyck is rooted in his amazement at how the painting always eludes us. 

Moonen's drawings are always about the intensity of making work and observing; about the extraordinary interaction of the image and the eye. That process brings the marks, lines and colors to life and makes them much less tangible than their concrete presence would suggest. Speaking about his drawings Moonen says, "The point isn't whether it's good, but 'how does it get there?'" I'm not sure about that: it comes about. Your eyes have a lot to do."