Dutch artist Jan van der Ploeg is a regular visitor to Australia. His ?Grip? works link painting and sculpture to system and serialism. The ?Grip? motif, derived from the hand-holes in cardboard boxes used for removals, is always the starting point for Ploeg, an ?everyday form? (long horizontal rectangle with rounded corners) shifted into the context of ?painting?. The ?Grip? design is ready-made and appeals on a semantic level by sharing similar connotations in both Dutch and English and as a generic modular shape, may be understood as an international sign. Further, the ?Grip? motif is varied according to architectural conditions ? inclusively from mural construction to small intimate panel paintings.
Van der Ploeg has developed a specific colour vocabulary that consists of black, white and contrasting shades like pink, purple or orange. This mode reinforces the impression that colour has been reduced to a mere surface, yet the combination of various areas of colour with precisely related dimensions create a three-dimensional quality. The colour arrangements do not seem to be embedded on a plane surface but evince volume - an effect that does not alter the way in which surrounding space is perceived. Ploeg?s murals create notional space both in their dimension and use of colour without expressing space in terms of perspective. ?Space painting? therefore, is an appropriate term for this work. A key feature of Ploeg?s process is that particular details such as a ledge or door are included in the painting. Specifically, the ?Grips? produce a different effect in each location, performing the function of an architectural keystone - an interrelationship emphasises the three-dimensional effect of the works through sculptural accent.
Van der Ploeg?s first Grips appeared in 1997 on the walls of buildings or back yards in Amsterdam conceived as schematised figures, faces or punctuation marks. Ploeg?s link with the graffitist?s ?tag? is appropriate, just as his work is anchored in Piet Mondrian?s Neo-plasticism and the Concretism of the later stages of the De Stijl movement ? as influenced by Theo van Doesburg and Sonya Delaunay. These early modernist connections are reinforced by Ploeg?s own focus on painting. Formally, Ploeg?s post-formalist works are traditionally made up of a number of layers of glazed paint, achieving a smooth un-textured appearance. Similarly, the American Richard Artschwager found a formal module that functioned in a comparable way as early as 1967 and like Ploeg, used a specially shaped black form (?Blp?), produced in relation to the graffiti sprayers? logo. Artschwager?s ?Blp? were intended to become a part of everyday experience that marked places for the sake of looking; they were visually ordinary, without any connection in terms of content. If Artschwager?s ?Blp? or Ploeg?s ?Grips? are read as logos, then they also representative of a linguistic record of their own geographical movement, within a network.
Ploeg?s art represents a positive response to various traditions considered in the post-modern era anachronistic. Chiefly, where ?painting as sculpture? had first been initiated as a process leading to the development of the shaped canvas and where minimal protagonists such as Ellsworth Kelly attempted to make ?the picture? into ?an object?. In that same manner, the inner structure of the image in Ploeg?s work continues to be translated as a newer art object, associated with but liberated from prior connections. Consequently, concepts introduced by Kelly like ?colour as shape? or ?shape as form? apply to Ploeg?s wall paintings, with the critical element in his style being formal variation. In considering Ploeg?s links to an international tradition of highly reductive practices, the wide range of possibilities currently produced by the post-formalist artist appears a wellspring, just as the ?Grips? fit with the everyday world in their overall effect, functioning as both sign and ornament. In short, the generic aesthetic informing the ?Grip? design is a device, or visual/critical response that sanctions formal reduction and serialism.
Edited commentary by Billy Gruner, from Friederike Nymphius, ?Minimalism and After?, Sammlung, Daimler-Chrysler, February 8 - May 20, 2002, Berlin
Image above: Jan van der Ploeg
GALLERY + PROJECT ROOM untitled Vicente Butron
Vicente Butron is an artist who lives in Sydney. His work frequently concerns the idea of the monochrome painting - that 'still point' in the turning universe of contemporary art - while dramatizing existence in general. Addressing how the metaphysical aspects of colour and language may continue to instigate a site where a central cultural/emotional lack is articulated, Butron's new work is informed by an ethical premise of correlation, between the capacity not to absolutise one's standpoint and achieving humanistic ideals in a decentred, multi-communicational environment.