SMALL GESTURES OF EXULTATION
by Amarie Bergman
In conversation with Guido Winkler and Iemke van Dijk
Guido Winkler and Iemke van Dijk are visual artists based in Leiden, The Netherlands, and the founding directors of IS-projects. The gallery began in December 2007 as a consequence of turning an accumulation of work by 20 artists from the USA, Europe and Australia into its first exhibition. UND Jetzt (AND Now) was shown ‘in-house’ and around the corner at Le Petit Port. Since then, IS-projects has become one of the leading platforms for reductive art.
BACKGROUND TO THE WORK
Bergman: Can you reveal your artistic philosophy?
Guido Winkler and Iemke van Dijk: We each build our projects through dialogue. A discourse. Beyond our work, two outcomes of this at IS-projects are we always present group shows, and we frequently assemble and promote limited editions of artists’ work because it is a way for us to create stronger engagement between artists and collectors.
Bergman: What attracted you to non-objective/minimalist art?
Winkler: It was the step away from story thinking and metaphors. I was taught that way but it was not sufficient for me.
van Dijk: To me, it seemed just the natural consequence of the way I was looking at the world around me. As a child, I remember breaking the bark of a branch and then examining how the linear structure of the fibres of the bark determined the shapes it broke down. When I lived in Paris, I was fascinated by the patterns on the worn, plastered walls which were influenced by the shapes of the stones underneath. Years later, I found out that Ellsworth Kelly noticed the same thing when he lived there.
Bergman: When and how did you establish your style, and why has it continued to be entrancing or compelling for you?
Winkler: In 1998 I completely turned to geometric abstraction.
van Dijk: In 1994 I started making watercolors and my first relief work.
Bergman: Is there a rationale or an emotion that is a constant influence on your discipline?
Winkler: Emotions are a constant influence to everybody. To me, rationale only seems important. It is of less importance.
Bergman: What is your view about the relationship between non-objective art and sublime introspection or what Agnes Martin likens to “the void-pure mind, freedom”? What place do humility and trust have in your practice?
Winkler: I like the idea of the vacant mind.
van Dijk: I trust that everything is always in transition and never to be fully understood. And it is not necessary to understand.
Bergman: Which artist (and / or architect or musician or fashion designer) has pervasively inspired you the most?
Bergman: What is the principal medium and scale of your work? Why is that?
Winkler: Paint on wood, usually acrylics. Most of the time, the scale is rather small, 30x30 centimeters, but it also can be quite large 3000x2000 centimeters. I prefer to make my work by hand and therefore like to hold it in my hand, so the preferable scale is something like 40x30 centimeters.
van Dijk: In essence, all my work stems from drawing. I draw right on the wall itself. The aluminum discs are basically also drawings (that become paths in Illustrator, which are then used to give the laser cutting instructions). The scale is rather small, ideally the width of my arms, like 165 centimeters.
Bergman: Do you do the work mainly for yourself or does it have a gallery exhibition as its focus / motivator?
Winkler: Myself to begin with, but context is important.
van Dijk: A specific exhibition space can be an extra motivator to start something new.
Bergman: When you start a new project do you already have the end result in mind or does it keep changing during the process?
Winkler: Everything is in a constant state of transition. I project ideas, not end results.
van Dijk: It always starts with the idea to set up the rules for a way of working. I do have images in my mind but not a specific result.
Bergman: Beyond visual art what informs / augments your work? Related to this, are there statements that describe what you conceive in solitude through non-objective art and not through any other form?
Winkler: I am interested in the difference between visual space and physical space. The world ‘as is’ versus the world ‘as it appears’ to me/us. It is about judgment and perception. Just as there are many people, there are as many ways of experiencing the world, physical and mental. This is the way I see it and use it in my work.
Bergman: Over these years, which series or project of yours has given you “moments of perfection”?
Winkler: The series I will never make or have never made because I don't believe in perfection. Perfection is a construction of the mind. The other way of seeing it is that everything already is the only - and therefore perfect - outcome of the infinite possibilities of the atom dance.
van Dijk: The first graphite drawing at SNO Australia. (Sydney Non Objective Centre.) The experience worked.
Bergman: Could you pick one of your works that we are featuring and briefly describe its inspiration and creative process?
Winkler: The series 'One of the endless possibilities of seeing a particular rectangle a little different'. Could it be possible to put all that I know into one painting? I made a series of prints first, and, eventually, I came to the conclusion I had to fold the wood of the stretcher. The process was a little tricky. Because to fold it, I first needed to make a cut - to score it - but not all the way through. Cutting - with a knife, not a saw - in wood is a tricky action in itself – especially for the fingers! After the cut, I am able to fold it but of course the wood first bends more then it folds. (There is a point it can actually crack. If the pressure is too high you break it completely; if the pressure is too low you bend it, but of course then it needs to be cut deeper.) With the use of glue, I try to keep the work in place with clamps and other pieces of wood that serve as a mould. It is hard to see what you will get because, during this process, all I see is the flipside of the work.
Bergman: Does the configuration of a venue space or the status of a gallery come first, or are you inspired to do the work and then set about finding the right place for it?
Winkler and van Dijk: The second, but both strategies work for each of us.
Bergman: Is there a fascination you have found when non-objective art interacts with the architecture of a gallery?
Winkler: It is a constant fascination. But not only architecture; I am very much interested in how art interacts with the viewer.
van Dijk: I’m fascinated by the changing light in a space and its effects.
Winkler: Of course. But that was already my starting point.
Bergman: Are there any special materials, or ways of presentation, that you anticipate using in your future exhibitions?
Winkler: I will execute a large scale outdoor wall painting.
Winkler and van Dijk: IS-projects will do more art fairs.
Bergman: How would you like people to engage with your work?
Winkler: Buying a work of art is the ultimate engagement. I love collectors :-)
van Dijk: Me too!
Winkler: Vandalism is the only thing I don't want people to do.
Every respectful and critical engagement is good. This is what I really like about the silent, dumb painting. It doesn't want or expect anything specific from the viewer. It is just there to be, harmless.
Bergman: If you could stage an exhibition in any space, in any scale, in any format, in any era, what would be your ideal?
van Dijk: I could imagine that one of my reliefs could be executed as a design for a landscape project, which would make it possible for it to be experienced physically.
GALLERY DIRECTORS ROLES
Bergman: How has your practice formally been affected by exposure to the repeated viewings of other artists’ exhibitions, along with the intricacies and constant responsibilities of running / keeping financially solvent / being associated with a gallery?
Winkler: Maybe it has given me more confidence and thus, motivation.
van Dijk: It is gratifying in many ways and, at times, I have also learned practical things through other artists. To live with the works for a little longer period has become very inspiring. We never thought about this before we started.
Bergman: Is curating collaborations with international galleries a vital part of your role? And if so, why?
Winkler: It happens to be a vital part. The Netherlands are small. So is the non-objective discourse. All is relative, of course.
PRESENT AND FUTURE
Bergman: Have you visited an exhibition recently that has made an impression?
van Dijk: “Recent Movements in Non-Objective Art” at Reuten Gallery Amsterdam. It was a group show in which every work inter-related very well.
Bergman: How do you see the relationship between what you are doing and the (apparent) inception of non-objective art by Kasimir Malevich?
Winkler: He is my core inspiration. Malevich made collage tableaus which he used for his series of lectures in Germany and, I believe, Poland, during the early 1920's. The Stedelijk in Amsterdam has most of these collages in its collection. In 1996 or 1997, I was lucky to study them privately in the depot. However the work was very clumsy, not up to our standards, yet it made quite an impression on me. Malevich was very clear: it is not about ‘what’ is being depicted, but ‘how.’ This experience led to the fact that I quit working in a narrative way and stopped using metaphors. It also led to the fact - in my experience - that an artwork was not about something specific, instead is about everything.
Bergman: What is the most important artistic endowment you believe you are making to the Non-Objective/Minimalist lineage?
Winkler: Not necessary the non-objective lineage, but back in 1998 I felt people perceived a painting as a two dimensional plane on which an alternative world is being depicted. The (early) Renaissance taught us the use of mathematical perspective was the way to translate space into painting. But this perspective only works when you are standing on the right spot: that is, right in front of the painting and, ideally, looking with one eye. Icons like Massacio and Jan van Eyck come to mind... Photographs of paintings represented in historical art books, et al, follow this way of viewing art. These ideas follow the notion that a painting is a flat thing from an initial idea that the painting is about ‘the thing:’ But what if you could include the constant shifting perspective from the viewer into the paradigm? As if he were approaching and viewing a painting at an angle? The rectangular painting is then perceived as a trapezoid, and so a Renaissance perspective no longer works the way it was meant to. I try to transfer this particular perception into my paintings. I see a painting as an object, and so I am exploring ways to reconsider these notions about perspective/dimensions.
Bergman: How do you foresee the evolution of non-objective art in the next 5-10 years?
Winkler: Last year's graduates in The Netherlands seemed interested in Advanced Abstraction. All else, I do not know.
van Dijk: It will flourish. There are still so many roads to travel. What will it look like? We will find out.
Bergman: Are you working on a particular project right now? And can you tell us about your future plans?
Winkler: Iemke and I just finished showing in “Doppler” at Parallel Art Space, New York. This month, we will present our work during “Kunstroute Leiden,” an annual art walk that is Leiden's largest visual arts event. Also in September, we both have been invited by Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal to make site-specific works in de Meelfabriek, a massive derelict factory in Leiden. Project Initiative Tilburg (PIT) invited us for the “The little BIG printmaking manifestation” in Eindhoven, running from 3 October to 1 November, 2013. In April/May 2014, my work will be presented in a group exhibition, “Concrete kunst nu,” in Zoetermeer (along with Joost Baljeu, Bob Bonies, Ditty Ketting, André van Lier and Jan Maarten Voskuil, among others.) Somewhere around that same time, IS-projects will host an international project, curated by René Eicke, based on circles and dots.
Iemke van Dijk