This year marks the 25th anniversary of Art Rotterdam (1-4 Feb), and the last before it moves from the iconic Van Nellefabriek ex-factory, an architectural classic, to a bigger and more central site. The event appears in good health, with a hundred galleries and various awards and special sections. As with any fair, there’s more painting than anything else, but the ratio of other media is higher than at most fairs, and that’s reflected in my choices….
Simon Deppierraz: ‘Stecchino’ #1-3, 2021 at Archiraar Gallery, Brussels (top)
Swiss artist Simon Deppierraz’s studio is in Lausanne, close to extensive engineering facilities. Here he takes left-over granite as he finds it, complete with test holes, and adds stems of steel to fit. Are they, perhaps, renderings of cut flowers? Probably not: the elegant combination comes into humorous focus through the title, which is Italian for ‘toothpick’.
Anouk Kruithof: ‘Tough’, 2024: still from 24-second video at Gallery Friend of Bavink, Amsterdam
A short loop shows a turtle struggling to swim up for air within the confines of a plastic bag which is kept level with the sea’s horizon. The Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof has a wide-ranging practise of some substance, and this can be seen as dealing with rising sea levels; plastic waste in the ocean; the generality of man’s relationship to nature; or the way our perceptual horizons are limited by factors other than the actual horizon, without us knowing it… The turtle, she told me incidentally, belongs to a friend and is treated well!
Lucas Lenglet: ‘Cut Off 03’, 2023 at Gallery Stigter Van Doesburg, Amsterdam
Dutch artist Lucas Lenglet often probes the boundary between threat and protection, including in various revisions to normality installed throughout his home. His witty move in this series is to cut up found steel blades, a knife-on-knife crime I suppose. Does that, though, reduce or increase their dangerousness? And is the resulting wall sculpture more like a wing or, as his pose here suggests, a hand?
Jan Robert Leegle: ‘JPEG (JPEG (0xf2a2d723893e274c14)’, 2024 at Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam
This alluring not-quite-monochrome, by one of the first Dutch artists to make work on and about the Internet, has something of the spiritual vibration of a Rothko. Yet it operates at the opposite end of the spectrum – through logarithm, not inspiration. Compression is been the driving force behind enabling photography-based imagery on the net, but that compression always leaves a trace, which has become the slightly distorted lens through which the network sees the world of uploaded images. Jan Robert Leegle exposes that by putting a plain colour field through repeated compressions. The result is not a JPEG depicting an image: rather, the JPEG is the image itself – you might call it a picture of nothing
Mazaccio & Drowilal: from ‘Identikit’, 2016-22 at 22.48 m², Paris
Sanja Ivekovi? famously paired 65 of her private photographs with similar shots of models in magazine advertisements for ‘Double Life’, 1975-76 – seminally probing the role of mass media in identity formation. French art duo Elise Mazac and Robert Drowilal replay the tactic with great wit and a wider range in the ten proposed matches exhibited for Elise, who is refreshingly happy to mock herself. Their title thematically splices the composite portraits made when police seek a wanted person with the idea of something being in the commonplace grip of clichés.
Paul Beumer: ‘The suffering of the Buddhist king’, 2023 at Dürst Britt & Mayhew, The Hague
A survey mapping of textiles by Dutch artist Paul Beumer revealed his range in using different techniques and fabrics as he moves around the world – he’s worked in Madeira, China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and India as well as Amsterdam over the past eight years. He describes himself as a painter who found loose textiles suited him as ‘traveling with tubes of oil paint, canvases and an easel on my back was too unpractical and romantic, even for me.’ Consistent with that, he may alter the colours with ink or chlorine as well as using materials as found, for example cutting up used kimonos. The sidestep of literary titles add a further dimension.
Oscar Santillán: ‘A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History’, 2021 at Copperfield, London
For place in Beumer, read time in this large-scale textile work from a series by Oscar Santillán, who lives between the Netherlands and his native Ecuador. Ten weavings – each dating back to a different century of the last millennia, starting with thousand-year-old material from the Chimú culture in modern-day Peru – have been unknitted and reassembled into what looks like an unruly graph. The point is to counter narrow – typically western – views of history as ordered and progressive.
Ditty Ketting: ‘Untitled # 522’ at Galerie van den Berge, Goes (Netherlands)
Locally-based Ditty Ketting continues to find new ways of bringing colour and space together in her geometric explorations, citing Josef Albers’ view that colour does not exist in itself, but in how it reveals itself in dialogue with other colours. The combination she arrives at here struck me as particularly unusual: she told me they are elongated and rotated versions of colour sequences from cold (greens, blues and violets) to warm (yellows, reds and purple) that she took from a previous painting of coloured squares – and then found worked rather differently.
Tom Claassen: ‘Pelican’, ‘Rex’ and ‘Untitled’, 2024 at Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam
The fair’s most entertaining shelf brings us the playful Dutch artist’s clumsy pelican, gleamingly regal rabbit – he’s been making lupine sculptures since 2003 – and robotoid man of boxes, all in miniature. The last of those is a bronze of what was originally made from such big transit boxes it stood ten feet high.
Mark Mulders: ‘Where the Devil Don’t Stay 05.10.23’ and Hendriekje van Houweninge: ‘Untitled’ 2023 at Kers, Amsterdam
At first I thought Marc Mulders had moved from flowers towards abstraction, then I decided the apparent abstraction was more a means of maximising the floral excess. He’s equally inspired by Eastern and Western traditions, saying that It doesn’t matter which corner of the world your garden is in…
Because ‘in every garden you experience the same recognition and acknowledgement of the secret of growth, flowering and wilting’. In which spirit, he was well paired with the sculptural paper and wire flowers of Hendriekje van Houweninge.
Arantxa Etcheverria: ‘Black Window’ 2020 and ‘Red Window with decorative heads’, 2021 at Sector 1 Gallery, Bucharest
Arantxa Etcheverria, a French artist based in Romania since 2012, showed wood, acrylic and Plexiglas constructions, riffing on both geometric abstraction and the tradition of paintings as windows – in this case offering no views, but acting as objects. There’s also a suggestion that some sort of symbolic language might be in play. It makes sense that she trained as a set designer. Etcheverria is inspired by the location of her studio in Bucharest: in a notable modernist building designed by architect Marcel Iancu, better known as the Dadaist Marcel Janco.
Falk Gernegross: ‘Sunny Side Up’ 2023 at Kleindienst, Leipzig
This was my favourite from the excellent selection of ‘Leipzig school’ paintings one expects of the German gallery: Falk Gernegross did indeed study under Arno Rink and Neo Rauch at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. He seems recently to have focussed down from mysteriously interacting figures to alluring close-ups. Here the equation of hair with sun and eggs adds wit to a striking composition.