Saturday, 15 January 2022

Greet Billet / John McCracken


John McCracken


polyester resin, plywood, fiberglass

243,8 x 76,2 x 40,6 cm

courtesy: unknown
photo: unknown




Electron transitions: John McCracken

When atoms are heated enough, the energy level of the electrons changes. When they go back to their previous energy level, it is called electron transitions. During this transition, photons are released that we observe as light. If this light falls on an object, we can see this object through the reflection of the light on it. There are different types of reflection, such as the targeted and the diffuse reflection. These species are important in applications for matte paint or lacquer paint.


“I think of color as being the structural material I use to build the forms I am interested in. The fact that in another sense I use plywood, fiberglass and lacquer as structural materials is of less importance. I have found that a certain combination of color intensity and transparency and surface finish provide me with the expressive means I way, at least for the present”

Neville Wakefield. John McCracken: Sketchbook. Santa Fe: Radius Books, 2008: p. 66.


John McCracken (1934 - 2011) was an American artist who lived and worked in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Mexico and New York. After high school, he first went to the army for four years and then studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 1965 McCracken moved from Oakland to Los Angeles because the artistic landscape suited him better than in California. Before that period McCracken made oil paintings. He evolved into combinations of oil paintings with plywood and car paint, ultimately to end up with full-fledged sculptures in plywood and car paint.


“California culture did of itself offer some inspiration for art, too. The style of the place was sort of willy-nilly creativity. And the cars, with their sometimes attractive finishes, was one thing I looked at. The car-finish materials were what I was using and learning to use for my work...Not that many of them had great finishes – but the light in Los Angeles does something, too, and anyway there were some ‘inspiring’ glints of things here and there in Los Angeles that I was able to bounce off of in my track toward making what I felt in my intuitions was possible.”

Rachel Rivenc. Made in Los Angeles: Materials, Processes, and the Birth of West Coast Minimalism. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2016: p. 96.


In 1968 McCracken moves to New York and meets, among others, Flavin, Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Barnett Newman. When McCracken leaves New York, attention for him fades for a while, but in the 1980s, renewed interest comes from the art world for his work. From then on McCracken is investigating how he can use different materials for his work and also pays more attention to the architectural context where his work will be exhibited.

I chose his work 'Wave' (2004). This work consists of a rectangular plinth, a base in plywood treated with polyester resin and black pigment. McCracken has several works like this black beam, and there are also similar sculptures with other pigments and polyester resin as well as pedestals in polished metal. The shape of this sculpture is a beam, a purified minimalist form. For McCracken this form represents human proportions. But this form, the rectangle or plinth, is actually the bearer of the real work, namely the colour that this plinth has been given - in this case a deep black. The extremely thorough technique of processing the black pigment and polyester resin on the surface actually determines the entire work. Like a real pedestal, the work therefore fully supports this intensive colour treatment. The black pigment and the polyester resin have been made and applied with such skill and expertise that a certain depth has been created in the colour layer, making this colour seem elusive. This is reinforced by the high gloss obtained during the processing of the polyester resin. 

Partly because of this high gloss, the work reflects its surroundings, so that the colour seems to merge into the surroundings and vice versa. The minimalist form, the depth in the layer of colour and the reflective character give this work an unreal and inviolable quality. The work seems to merge into its surroundings and the surroundings seem to merge into the work. This is possibly reinforced when several copies are placed in a room, as during the exhibition at David Zwirner in New York in 2006. Due to the repetition or doubling of the works and the penetrating and reflective nature of the surface, as a viewer you lose your focus. Because of the intense black reflection, the environment seems to continue behind the mirror and there is a suggestion of another environment in the deep black. If only Alice could have seen this!

Greet Billet (BE)

RGB and three mirrors 

MDF, plexiglass, mirrors, wall paint, 2 x (112 x 150 x 112) cm 

installation view: Gallery El Welle

courtesy of the artist

photo: Kristien Daem




This work consists of a pedestal in MDF with three plexiglas plates on it, first a blue one, on top of that a green one and at the very top a red one. These plexiglas plates refer to the additive colour system. The sheets are originally transparent, but as they lie on top of each other, they lose their transparency and their colours are mixed in a certain way. When the sheets are placed on top of each other in a different order, a different colour is obtained. The difference in colour also depends on the thickness of the sheets. In this order and thickness, the result is an indeterminate deep brown or deep black colour. Due to the mirroring effect of the sheets, the environmental colour of the exhibition space is also absorbed into the work, so that the colour depends on the place where the work is exhibited. 

The dimensions of the plates are 112 x 150 cm. The dimensions of the pedestal correspond to this in order to pursue a certain peace and harmony. For this exhibition, the pedestal was painted white with the same paint used for the walls of the gallery. In this way, the pedestal becomes part of the architecture. In John McCracken's case, the pedestal is completely covered by the deep black colour, making the colour completely dominant. As a spectator, you drown, as it were, in the deep black. In my work, the confrontation between the colour and the spectator is more subtle than in John McCracken's. In this case, the plinth merely lifts the deep colour and only the top of the gallery is reflected. The viewer is not initially reflected, as is the case with McCracken's pedestals. Only when he bends over the work he will see himself.

The materiality of the colour, obtained through an excellent technique in John McCracken's work, is inimitable. By sanding layer after layer with great intensity and by manipulating the black surface in such a way, McCracken manipulates the light in a very exceptional way. In my work, I want to let the light manipulate itself by offering it a certain material that is unprocessed. In this way I hope to give the viewer the purest possible view of the light itself. 


Greet Billet, sections of the PhD 'Light as an artistic medium'

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Bram Braam / Gordon Matta-Clark


Gordon Matta-Clark

painted wood, metal, plaster and glass, three sections

175,3 x 77,.8 x 25,4 cm

collection MoMA

Gordon Matta-Clark

Conical Intersect


27-29 Rue Beaubourg, Paris





Still a huge influence for many young artists interested and dealing with topics related to architecture and space in our urban environment is Gordon Matta-Clark. Unfortunately he died way too young in 1978 when he was only 35. His radical approach to look beyond the limits of sculpture and 50 years after Duchamp’s ready-made “fountain” he declared our buildings, architecture and city spaces as his main artistic play field. Buildings, stairs, windows and floors became the main subject of the art itself, a building as a sculpture, splitting houses, cutting holes through the building, floors and walls. Sometimes he showed the elements he took out of the building and showed it in the museum, but mostly the building itself was the art work what was only visible for a short moment till the building was demolished. By making holes, you could look through the whole structure of the architecture and showing in his words “the heart of the building”


His way how to look for the limits of sculpture in our daily environment can be seen similarly in my own work, although differently. My works look like real fragments taken out of our landscapes but are in fact well thought in balanced constructed sculptural works. I play with the tension between reality and abstraction and dealing with the question: where am I looking at, is it real, is it staged, is it reconstructed or a mixture of all these things, questions to be made more than ever in our accelerated time. 


The massive influence by Gordon Matta-Clark can be seen back in all of my works but specific in my use of materials and ambition to look differently to our daily reality. A wall as a painting, a building as a sculpture, a landscape as the art work.


Bram Braam, 2021

Bram Braam

exhibition view 'Cycle', Bram Braam & Anneke Eussen

PARK, Tilburg (NL)


Bram Braam

The flow of present 


200 x 220 cm

Bram Braam (NL/DE)



steel, tiles, wood, posters

100 × 58 × 38 cm

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Erik Mattijssen / Josef Scharl

Josef Scharl 
oil on canvas

Josef Scharl 
Geschlachteter Hammel
oil on canvas



Every now and then it happens that you find yourself transfixed by work of a painter that you have never heard of. The pleasure of a new star in the firmament. That happened to me in Munich in the late 1990s, in an exhibition on the Neue Sachlichkeit with well-known names such as Otto Dix, Beckmann and Georg Grosz. 
It was a small painting of a man with a battered face, 'Blind Soldier', from 1928, a victim of the horrors of the First World War, painted by a man who knew those horrors all too well: Josef Scharl. 
Scharl's oeuvre (1896-1954) develops from mainly portraits in gloomy Germany between the world wars to abstracted, lighter colourful work that he made later in life, during his exile in the United States to which he travelled in 1935, on fleeing the Nazis. His early work shows that he loved Vincent van Gogh, but what he paints is the darkness of the interwar period, the corrupted power, the urban poor, and the impending doom and horror of the Third Reich. They are not the subjects that concern me in my work, far from it. But I know that one can especially like artists who do the opposite of what you make yourself. Maybe it's a dark side in me that I don't give much of a chance in my work. Matisse and Hockney, Vuillard and Zurbaran, Brusselmans and Hopper accompany me in a natural way. Yet I draw inspiration from Scharl's ruthless portraits, his bold doomsday, his theatrical scenes and his use of colour. It's very rare that you get the chance to see a painting by him in real life, unfortunately. It's about time for a big overview of Josef Scharl in the Netherlands.


Erik Mattijssen, 2021

Erik Mattijssen 
Donkey's years
150 x 200 cm
pastel and gouache on paper, wood, rope

collection Stedelijk Museum Schiedam 

Erik Mattijssen  
O Milagro
196 x 250 cm
pastel, gouache and pencil on paper, wood, rope

collection Museum Jan Cunen, Oss

Erik Mattijssen (NL)
80 x 70 cm
pencil and gouache on paper

collectie kunstenaar


Saturday, 11 September 2021

Dieuwke Spaans / Many artists

Many artists

clippings, studio floor 2021




My whole life is intertwined with finding and embracing heroes. Artists who have shaped me as long as I can remember. They are my advisors, my companions.


I must have been about 6 years old, when I saw my first George Stubbs. Unfortunately, not in real life, but on a postcard. I no longer have this postcard but the image 'Whistlejacket', c.1762, hangs in my studio. This painting, of the rearing horse, not only depicts the animal but depicts the strength and the emotion, everything my love for this painting and my love for animals stands for. 


Never before had I had such a strong attraction when looking at an image.


The Louvre was an annual part of the holiday in my youth, and every time when I saw the painting of the crouched boy 'Jeune homme nu étude', 1836 by H. Flandrin, it felt like a reunion with an acquaintance, with a friend. 


I remember the Louvre because of the stories I made during the car ride to Paris. I shared the stories silently with the castaways and savage women with bare breasts sitting in the back of the car.


When I was a teenager, I went to the Jeff Koons exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum, an exhibition at the time of director Wim Beeren. Jeff Koons showed me that anything was possible and allowed within the language of art.


Once at the art academy in the 90s, Edward Kienholz along with Jean Cocteau, Nan Goldin and Bruce Nauman crossed my path.


During the third year, Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois came on the scene. Cinema also became a very, perhaps most important source and advisor (the film movements Neue Welle and Nouvelle Vague, but also everything from Hollywood was reviewed).


Artist Servaas Schoone (daring and individuality) stood by my side in the third and fourth academic year. He was not only an advisor, he was my mentor. He has given me the no nonsense attitude but also the freedom to imagine language. As year teachers, Aernout Mik and Nan Hoover have shaped my perspective and attitude towards my visual practice. Pierre Klossowski completed the art academy together with Philip Guston. When writing these words about heroes and art, I remember my first visual contact with a painting of Guston: 'Painting Smoking Eating'. It must have been far before the studying at the academy, I can’t give words to the feeling and joy this painting and artist gives me every time I see it in “person”. But I’m not sure if I liked the painting back then.


During my year at Ateliers Arnhem, women like Sarah Lucas, Tracy Emin and Helen Frankenthaler came. Hesse and Guston stayed. The movie stayed. A studio visit by Daan van Golden gave me focus and tenderness regarding my subjects.

Over the years, most of the masters have stayed by my side, new heroes have emerged. Paul McCarthy and Francis Picabia joined me in my studio as critical speakers.


Perhaps I could name four artists the most important (only if I were forced to choose) for their daring individuality and imagination and because my work has direct relationships with many of their ideas. Picabia, Cocteau and René Daniels are always in conversation with me during my work process. Odilon Redon for its elusiveness. 


A lot of contemporary artists “hang around” in my studio and in my head. Ellen Gallagher is one of them. But also, Laure Prouvost and Ana Navas, Neil Beloufa, Eva Rothchild, Nina Canell, Janis Rafa and Jon Rafman.  


The masters ensure that the outcome of my ideas is not fixed. That I don't get bored within my medium and use of material. They are masters of imagining our thoughts. 


I am aware that I forget to mention too many artists. Young contemporary artists, colleagues I admire and who inspire me. 


The arts have a major influence on my daily life and my own visual work.  


How to write an ode to this?  I don’t have an answer. 


Dieuwke Spaans, 2021

Dieuwke Spaans



porcelain and Christal glaze

Ø 29 cm 

private collection



Saturday, 28 August 2021

Ricardo van Eyk / Michel Majerus


Michel Majerus (1967 -2002)



acrylic on canvas

480 x 700 cm, 15 parts, each 160 x 140 cm

Michel Majerus



acrylic on canvas

980 x 960 cm, 42 parts, each 140 x 160 cm




What is striking about these installations at first sight [...] is the fact that the artist accepts the room as more than just a necessary evil. Instead he underscores or even creates its different qualities [...]. Above all, the installations mostly emphasize the temporal, more or less dynamic moment of their perception. 


Raimar Stange 

Ricardo van Eyk (NL)

Installation view NIHIL



Friday, 13 August 2021

Wim Claessen / Léon Spilliaert

Léon Spilliaert

Strand gezien vanuit Bredene 


washed East Indian ink on paper

73,8 x 48 cm




I got to now the work of León Spilliaert (1881–1946 ) during a visit to Ostend (B) in 1996 where in the museum of fine arts an exhibition of his work took place. 

His seascapes in particular made a big impression on me, I came across the work several times in the following years and every time there was that enormous appreciation for the austere great strength of the work. 

At the beginning of 2005 my work developed in a direction in which the simplicity, the sobriety of the image and my use of color became characteristic of my work.

Again I run into Spilliaert and without copying him, his work influenced my way of working.


Wim Claessen, 2021

Wim Claessen (NL)



acrylic on canvas

120 x 170 cm


Saturday, 31 July 2021

Rob Bouwman / Pieter Bruegel de Oude

Pieter Bruegel de Oude

The Tower of Babel

ca. 1563

oil on panel

59,9 x 74,6 cm



During my art school days, when visiting Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, I was fascinated by the work of Pieter Bruegel de Oude. One of the most famous works from the Museum, 'The Tower of Babel', which was made around 1560. The versatility in the transparent hues and the eye for detail has 
stayed with me ever since. A fabulous work with infinite depth in the glazed oil layers.


Rob Bouwman, 2021

Rob Bouwman
Studio view - Untitled (p0102021) 
oil/alkyd wood
180 x 145 cm

Rob Bouwman
Studio view - Untitled (p0112021)


oil/alkyd wood 

180 x 145 cm    

Rob Bouwman (NL)

Studio view