From the 3rd through the 5th of July, Gerrit Rietveld Academie presented the final works of this year's graduating students. Two hundred twenty artists displayed quite thought-provoking, aesthetically appealing work. The show featured a medley of art: installation, photography, computer graphics, sculpture, audio-visual, jewelry, and textile design were just some of the mediums on view. Art students and aficionados from all over Holland gathered to see what the fuss was about (more info).
I especially enjoyed the work of Matthias Tharang and Camile Smeets, and thought they well represented the hard work and extraordinary amount of dedication of those who graduated. Their inspiration, devotion, and commitment are inspirational and thus worth sharing.
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA #3
“The translation of documents, icons or images into a staged, absurd and artificial atmosphere is one of my central motivations”
“I enjoy playing with tools of power” utters Matthias Tharang as he explains the origins of his installation.
Tharang’s Per Aspera Ad Astra #3 playfully toys with propagandistic endeavors. In his visually bizarre and conceptually sagacious installation, Tharang attempts to capture the hypocrisy and insincerity of power:
The tenor of my work doesn’t follow any political, commercial or other familiar purposes. I’m rather absorbed to play with the tools and the crafts of persuasion and to exaggerate them…I want to achieve a space of senselessness and uselessness due to the inherent absurdity of power
While Tharang claims there is no political connotation in his work, these images are reminiscent of the influential albeit absurd techniques used by many of today’s politicians.
The installation features seven poster-sized photographs displaying a spaceman performing what some would consider “everyday” activities. More than uncanny portrayals of a man dressed in a tacky jumpsuit, the pictures resonate symbolic meaning (he is shown performing very appealing, and in some cases, reputable actions): Hunting in the woods, petting cute little goats, and grocery shopping, meant to signify the ‘everyday man;’ he is just like you and me.
One is certainly able to draw comparisons between these activities and to the ones performed by American politicians. George Bush Jr. proudly displaying someone else’s baby just in time for a photo opp could certainly fall along the same lines as a spaceman petting a goat.
Tharang takes these “tools of power” to the next level. The humor, wit, and keen sense of irony exhibited in Per Aspera Ad Astra #3 compel the spectator to reconsider authority and its influence.
Het Blauwe Uur (The Blue Hour) 2009
“[I] focus on the figures… [These figures] become a story and I just follow the story”
The Blue Hour: A brief period in nature when night falls. A blue light captivates this period, creating an experience of serenity and spiritual peace. Amidst this moment there is absolute silence; a silence so intense and passionate that one need to experience it first-hand in order to appreciate its beauty.
This silence belongs to Camile Smeets:
For me, this silence is very important…I tell a story but I’m not putting it into words…I’m telling it in a silent way.
Smeets’ hand-crafted sculptures express a visual language, largely based on intuition, fantasy, and dreams; elements in which she considers to be missing in reality. It is about the existential pursuit for the unknown; an inner, very mysterious world. Her inspiration is instinctive, deeply motivated by the subconscious: This is perhaps one of the most interesting characteristics related to her collection. Referred to as the float off period, Smeets describes how she acquires insight:
…when you’re quiet and you have a moment to yourself…moment before falling into a deep sleep- it gets black and [I] see figures…[I] focus on the figures…[these figures] become a story and I just follow the story…
It is these mythological figures that are presented in Smeets’ collection. In Unbearable Silence (2009), both mystery and fantasy coalesce with one another. The catfish, an otherworldly, mysterious creature. The woman, holds him for the world to see.
Closer examination of the sculpture reveals this creature as an instinctual guide, yearning for recognition:
…the fish is helping her to stand up because it wants to be seen in this world…she is presenting this old ancient wise animal to the world…she got up something forgotten and is showing it as a tribute
Smeets fervently draws a comparison between the catfish and a dragon, an imaginary creature solely existing in fairytales, further emphasizing her passion for fantasy.
Smeets’ collection invites us to exist in a world unseen, inexperienced by all. Blue Hour valiantly provokes imagination unobstructed by truth.
Mathhias Tharang Photographs courtesy of Athena Newton
Camile Smeets Photohraghs courtesy of Camile Smeets
For more information on these artists, and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, please visit the following websites: