Greenhouses: the Westland area is full of them. Smart modular building systems that extend, grid by grid, with Dutch exports in the form of tomatoes and cucumbers under their classic shed roofs. For ZOOM, from 3 September to 8 October at Galerie Onrust, Ricardo van Eyk has based his space-filling installation CIVIL II on such a greenhouse, but the tomatoes and cucumbers have made way for art. His work hangs in and around it, alongside the work of Frank Nitsche, Benjamin Roth and Han Schuil, as if coming to fruition here, in the ideal light and climate conditions. But this greenhouse, with its repeating lines and surfaces, can also be interpreted as a painterly intervention – Van Eykdoes, after all, consider himself a painter. So, you see an installation in which he generates direction, space, vistas and layers. A work that balances on the line between painting and architecture, sharpening the focus on the works of Nitsche, Roth and Schuil and connecting them to one another. CIVIL II emphasises the architectural associations in Nitsche’s paintings, the spatial effect in the work of Schuil and the fact that Roth creates his painterly illusions with plasterboard and screws from the hardware store. This makes ZOOM an exhibition that raises questions about painting and building and about reality and illusion.
The blurred boundaries between painting and architecture – or perhaps ‘the art of construction’ might be a better term here – and between reality and illusion move crisscross throughout the exhibition. For example, like Van Eyk, Roth ‘paints’ with a drill, circular saw and sander, exploring the hardware of a painting: the frame, the canvas, plaster and screws. You are seduced by delicate, paper-thin lines in green and cadmium yellow, which move across a soft-grey cloudy surface. Tranquil, like rippling grass on a warm summer’s day. The notion that Roth set about a fresh piece of plaster with an angle grinder to create this effect, or that it is even plaster at all, with angle beads as a frame, seems almost beyond belief.
ZOOM shows clearly what captures an artist’s eye: the grid of a greenhouse, the bevelled edge of an ordinary piece of plasterboard or, as in Nitsche’s work, a comic-strip figure or a photograph in a newspaper. In their precision, Nitsche’s paintings suggest an architectural logic. But anyone who looks at his artist’s books encounters an exuberant collection of photo clippings in which allthe misfortune of the world engulfs you in the form of images. He reduces the world to surprising stacks of surfaces and lines, which come from nowhere and go nowhere and are combined purely on the basis of intuition.
As a viewer, too, you constantly zoom in and out of ZOOM. You can link Van Eyk’s CIVIL II to Nitsche’s constructed canvases and passion for building or to Schuil’s gaze, with which Van Eyk feels a strong affinity. Schuil is, after all, exceptionally good at disconnecting form and meaning from each other in order to create a new reality with familiar elements. His enigmatic and abstract-looking paintings have their origins in everyday reality, from the folds in a robe in a Flemish Primitive painting to a skating suit, or a medical thermogram to which he comes so very close that a new world miraculously opens up, which seems more expansive, rather than narrower. Anyone who enters this place becomes lost in vast spaces, like Alice in Wonderland madeflesh.
What an artist zooms in on, what is consciously or unconsciously noted or retained, seems at times as random as it is unpredictable. Sometimes looking wins out over thinking, while at other times everything is meticulously orchestrated. Sometimes it may be used immediately, but more often the retained observation appears only years later in a new capacity. This also makes ZOOM a plea for us to keep looking around with new eyes.