Vivacious and free, wall reliefs and installations by Joris Kuipers
Face to face with an installation or wall relief by Joris Kuipers you are about to enter a different dimension. One where the chaotic, random events of life have been captured and carefully rearranged to create an animated, lyrical object of beauty. Hand-drawn, laser-cut slices of imagination are assembled into jubilant abstract visions that effortlessly expand into the surrounding space. Constellations reminiscent of billowing clouds, minerals and flowers in bloom testify to the vitality of nature and our own capacity for joy.
From the first colorful impressions, Kuipers’ work unfolds into ever finer detail. The unique, vibrant surface of every individual element arrests the attention, makes you marvel at the subtle contrasts that accentuate the countless different hues in a bold but harmonious palette. Gold, fluorescent orange and burnt sienna, or infinite shades of pink, yellow, purple, orange and red. Gradients and organic patterns – cellular structures perhaps, molds, rusts, raindrops – seem to flow autonomously and freely through all the pieces, revealing a casual painterly command behind the spontaneous exuberance of color. Layer upon layer, Kuipers adds depth and reflection, guiding and enticing the eye.
This doesn’t, however, amount to an untroubled utopia, no matter how bright and vivid the works may be. The recent wall reliefs, Floral Abstractions, also refer to decay, to a struggle for light, to proliferating thorny, prickly plants. Kuipers is not blind to the jagged edges, the vulnerabilities and transiency of our existence. He simply accepts the shadows, incorporating them in an esthetical habitat where the darker shades serve to bring out the highlights and blinding whites accentuate the rich tones behind them.
Within each work, the separate cut-out shapes are part of an ingenious spatial composition suggesting movement in every direction. Most dynamic of all are the large installations like Suspended Relief 004, that are drifting across the room, submerging the viewer in a dazzling flurry of forms that float up or down, swirl around and turn with unexpected swiftness. Just to avoid confusion: they are not actually moving, it is the energy and the rhythm Kuipers gives them, the broad, sweeping gestures made up of many minute decisions and meticulous deliberations over relative sizes, colors, angles and positions.
The amount of control that goes into making the reliefs and installations – the tedious process of testing, adjusting, detaching, replacing, touching up, refitting – is negated by the wonderful feeling of unpremeditated growth the works evoke. You can see Kuipers’ playfulness, his delight in discovery and a sense of wonder, and remain happily unaware of his efforts. The work itself has a tendency to dissolve into images and associations while it draws you in; it induces an experience of being closely connected to the world, even as you are temporarily oblivious to your actual surroundings.
Nanne op ‘t Ende, 2019
Artist Joris Kuipers (1977) was trained as a painter: having graduated as a bachelor at Arnhem Academy, in 2003 he completed a master’s study at the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen. However, expecting Joris Kuipers to make conventional paintings, you’re in for a big surprise.
In recent years, the only legacy of traditional painting in Kuipers’ work is colour, often applied in bright hues and rich abundance. He uses the painter’s brush just to splatter the paint – colour actually – right onto the surface, if actually he doesn’t employ other instruments to manipulate it, for instance by allowing pigments to drip directly from tubes or flasks, or by using plant sprayers or nebulizers. Kuipers no longer is a disciple of traditional painting. With his working methods he rather steps into the trail of Jackson ‘Jack-the-Dripper’ Pollock and other expressionists then and now – whether they be abstract or not. Kuipers’ worlds of colour are constructed out of myriads of dots and stains of pure pigments, merging into colourful clouds when observed from some distance – a contemporary pointillism…
Apart from this, Kuipers took one additional step: deserting the traditionally whole and flat plane of paintings and drawings, he allows his ‘painting’ to flow into the three dimensions of space. Do away with the narrow limits of picture frame and drawing block. Do away as well with just canvas and paper as supports: Kuiper experiments with malleable supports such as papier-mâché, clay or porcelain, and with various foam plates that he heats and moulds into shape. He constructs composite picture planes that are no longer flat but that curve into three dimensions, piling up in front of and behind one another, above and below one another. In some cases, Kuipers raises these planes away from the wall, thus creating relief-like compositions; in other cases, these planes whirl downward and forward, streaming into space towards the spectator. Recently, Kuipers has been experimenting with constructions that seem to have completely abandoned the wall, suspended freely in space. Or rather: they seem to hover there, apparently weightless, seemingly without any order or system. In reality there is gravity here as well, of course, with all shapes delicately and deliberately attached and connected to one another – but all that is supposed to stay hidden from view…
Materially, Kuipers’ constructions present themselves not just explicitly lightweight and fragile as dragonflies’ wings. Colours and planes seem to whirl and turn into a dazzling display. Fragmented and extremely three-dimensional, they refuse to allow the spectator’s eye to comfortably rest anywhere. Often one doesn’t know where to look, where to concentrate, exactly where and when things may get into focus.
There’s nothing of composure and stillness in Kuipers’ work: his is a fuzzy world of visual illusions and exuberance. Dutch viewers, their eyes trained by centuries of Puritanism and Modernism are not generally fond of that – rather sooner than later they judge it “Baroque pump & circumstance”, just as they once scorned Rembrandt’s late style as un-Dutch…
That being said, Kuipers’ visual language rather relates to 18th century Rococo architecture – one more horreur to eyes trained in Modernism… The creators of churches and palaces of that ancient age aimed at what they termed ‘un bel composto’, i.e. a ‘thing of beauty’ ‘composed’ out of many disciplines, with architecture merging with painting and sculpture, and preferably with music and fragrances as well, with texts and rituals, all contributing to a result that was literally to overwhelm and to stupefy – to swipe one off one’s feet.
Opera, musical and film can be considered to be the heirs of Rococo. Confronted with them, one shouldn’t try to rationally understand what is happening – but rather to permit oneself to be engulfed by them, to experience them. Thus, Rococo is and early example of our contemporary ‘experience economy’: turn off ratio, and turn on all one’s senses instead – I’d almost written ‘emotions’, but that’s an altogether different ballgame… Perilous and even life endangering that may be (commerce and propaganda amongst its frequent users): if in reliable hands (but then: who cq. what is reliable these days, who is to be really trusted?), letting oneself go to just experience things may lead to insights and perceptions hardly to be grasped by sheer ratio.
For now, let’s just assume that with Kuipers we actually are in reliable hands; that his aim is not to manipulate us, nor even to overwhelm us with empty and fortuitous gestures – cheating on us. What has he got to say for himself?
“At first glance, the work may seem no more than a colourful array of shapes. Upon closer inspection, however, all parts combine into an anthropomorphic skull, fanning out and dissolving, with the spectator at its centre.
The title ‘Völlig losgelöst’ [‘loosened completely’] refers to Peter Schilling’s popsong ‘Major Tom’ (1983). Its text is all about the sensation of being weightless and the desire to just vanish into space. Within the context of this art work, weightlessness and physically hovering rather has a more spiritual meaning. Dissolving a human head refers to hallucinating as a desire to escape, and in a wider, deeper context to letting go of one’s ego.”
The installation ‘Völlig losgelöst’ will be the concluding piece at a solo by Joris Kuipers at Galerie Jaap Sleper in Utrecht/Nl in early 2013. The exhibition will present installations, sculptures and works on paper.
Guus Vreeburg, 2012