p o r t r a y i n g _ a b s e n c e

Wouter van de Koot – Portraying Absence

Posted on 09/03/2011 by Liv Vaisberg for Ponyhof Gallery

Dutch painter Wouter van de Koot has joined Ponyhof Gallery’s stable a few months ago and it was about time that we present some of his work on our blog. Wouter’s work is figurative and is based on very explicit images. However his way of “cutting out” elements of the initial picture renders the result very evasive and leaves the viewer puzzled with the narratives to grasp. And it’s not Wouter who will give its audience the keys to understand his work. Here is what we gathered from our conversations with him.

Untitled, oil on linnen, 95 x 70 cm, 2010 .

Back in 2006, Wouter van de Koot  would work from very explicit images depicting violent scenes of the medical world, conflict areas, sexual mutilation or horror films. By cutting the representation out of the context, he managed to create a tension between the violence of the scenes and the aesthetics of the technique he used.  Later  he used to cut-out objects, mostly human figures, in MDF wood that he then painted. This has taught him to use negative space and to stage his work.

The Quiet #2, watercolour on paper,76x56cm, 2010

He generally overuses light in his staged performances to shape the images so he can reuse the strong contrasts appearing on the photographs to cut-out some elements and highlight others. However the pieces that are left out are not random, they are part of the narrative. The viewer is left faced with a narrative but struggle to make sense of it, and Wouter is not there to help him making sense of it. He wants his audience to be able to find their own interpretation of the narratives he created.

“I don’t try to fit in, I just do it my own way” was Wouter’s answer to the usual question: how do you place yourself on the contemporary art scene? And this is what Wouter does, he follows his own self-inspired evolution, but reveals a work that is really complete and mature.

The Quiet #5, watercolour on paper, 70×50 cm, 2010

However, he slowly moved back to traditional canvases and paper formats while moving away from pure representation of collected images, to arrange his own performances. He or his friends will act to create characters bearing his fantasies or fears that will then be photographed. The subject-matter of his paintings became experiences of his own life and images he has in his head.

He will then work from those pictures, cutting out some elements from the representation and bringing them therefore completely out of context, setting a distance with the subject-matter.

Disappearing act #2, indian ink on paper, 29.5×21 cm, 2009

Wouter van de Koot’s work functions usually in series. He declines the same image in a series making a dexterous use of colours with different media such as oil, watercolours or ink. He does not simply copy the same image again and again, but applies slight variations from one work to the other. The same images  can then result in different series, opposing each other within his body of work.  This  enables him to place his own work in a larger context and opens up new ways to read the image.