Two intensely yellow aluminium walls and floor, and a brightly coloured metal stand: the latest work of Ton Boelhouwer (The Hague, 1960) could be a minimalist theatre décor. Unsurprisingly, Boelhouwer is often seen as a sculptor or installation artist. But nothing is what it seems: Boelhouwer’s focus is in fact on painting. Not on the customary panel or canvas, but on a wide variety of architectural objects. An installation by this artist forms the focal point of an exhibition on light in painting to be held in the Gemeentemuseum. In addition works by Sol LeWitt, Bruce Naumann and JCJ Vanderheyden are on display.
Boelhouwer is fascinated by everyday phenomena and objects. By converting them into another medium – often aluminium – and then painting them, he tries to capture the things surrounding him. His approach not only deprives the object of its function but also of its symbolism. It is reduced to zero, giving the viewer the opportunity to see it in a different light and to endow it with a new significance. Painting is crucial to this process. Like a scientist, Boelhouwer experiments with the possibilities offered by paint. Doubt about the choices he has made is an essential part of the creative endeavour.
Boelhouwer’s method is perfectly illustrated by the extraordinary work displayed in this exhibition. The basis is his own studio. It consists of two walls facing each other and separated by a floor with a gutter running down the middle. In creating the work, Boelhouwer realised that certain decisions he made were not right. Where he felt that it ‘failed’, he removed all the paint from the object and began afresh. He repeated this process until, in his eyes, it was perfect. Ultimately the aluminium walls and floor were painted in titanium white, the paint being applied in long strokes, on the walls from top to bottom and on the floor from left to right. Over this he applied a layer of cadmium lemon, followed by another layer of titanium white and so on. Through the application of layer on layer of colour, the work almost appears to radiate light.
Ton Boelhouwer is a prime example of the artist who no longer confines himself to the use of traditional painting media. From the nineteen sixties artists have increasingly resorted to unconventional methods to put across their message. Brush, paint and canvas are no longer sufficient to achieve their goals: in the work of some artists, entire spatial concepts, three-dimensional environments and objects replace conventional paintings. Boelhouwer’s three-dimensional painting is contrasted in this exhibition with artworks from the museum’s own collection, which are poised on the boundary between tradition and innovation. Works by Sol LeWitt, Joseph Albers and Jon McLaughlin are on display, as well as recent works by Rob van Koningsbruggen and Daan van Golden.
A publication compiled by the artist himself – Ton Boelhouwer, atelierfoto’s – accompanies the exhibition and is on sale in the museum shop.