Posts Tagged ‘Pop Art’

 

 

Dirk Kruithof is a Sydney artist whose work really zinged my eye the first time I saw it. I was struck by the raw emotion coming off the pictures; I loved their Punk skin. There was a directness which lay over (or under) the layers of possibly poetries in the works – a directness that called for a response by city dwellers to their urban environment, just as Kruithof responds to his. It was real.

Prior to Kruithof’s first solo show in a while – ‘City of Illusion’ at Christie Cotter on April 6, I asked him six questions.

 

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John Hardaker: Dirk, your work strikes me as being highly reflective of your environment, with signs and buildings and graffiti-like scrawls, the urban environment.

Dirk Kruithof: That’s a pretty accurate reading – A big part of my work has that urban environment theme going on: I go for walks around my area (Darlinghurst) and surrounding suburbs and get ideas for paintings – sometimes I’ll take a photo or 2 to remember ideas, or I just see things and keep it in my mind ’til I get back home to paint. Something as simple as liking the combination of textures and colours on a wall that’s been graffitied, or seeing a real-estate sign with ludicrous text like: ‘Exclusive authentic warehouse living, only $900,000.’ This sparks many ideas for me. I take this everyday imagery which I then recycle and recombine in my paintings. If I wanted to sound more pretentious I could describe myself as a Flaneur, wandering poetically around the city getting inspired. I often find physical material on these walks too, boards paint canvases etc on the street which I take home to use. So thematically and physically it all comes from the street, Images and materials, which is a neat little circle. Hey I may even get a grant going with that angle.

The other element to the work (which still relates to the urban environment) is that I use consumerist symbols – (bar-codes, QR codes) and icons from online and social media. They all become architectural elements I use to ‘build’ the painting.

Dirk Kruithof 'Sunset' acrylic on calico, 2015

Dirk Kruithof ‘Sunset’ acrylic on calico, 2015

JH: Would you say it has a Pop sensibility – are you heavily influenced by Pop artists past and present – or are you reacting as an individual set of eyes, ears and nerve endings?

DK: I’ve described my work as Abstract-Pop / Post-grunge / Signwriter Expressionism (!!) and yes I owe quite a debt to Pop Art. Perhaps the more messy or anarchic American and European pop artists have influenced me: Kippenberger and Polke, Rauschenberg, Wool, Basquiat and earlier artists like Schwitters. I share the same love-hate relationship to culture and advertising that Pop has, plus the use of text. The collage technique of taking things from here and there – hoarding and re-combining images is a classic Pop technique, all the way.

I feel like I’m increasingly ‘commenting’ in the work now, analysing or critiquing these things that I’m taking from here and there.

 

JH: There seems to be anger among the playfulness in your work. What makes you angry?

Dirk Kruithof 'Facial Recognition (skull)' acrylic, oil on canvas, 2015

Dirk Kruithof ‘Facial Recognition (skull)’ acrylic, oil on canvas, 2015

DK: The anger in my work and in particular in this show ‘City of Illusion‘ is mostly to do with the stresses and frustrations of daily city life, often related to how expensive or restrictive things are (that’s Sydney for you). Perhaps my heckling, griping or gonzo commenting is more a quizzical or bemused confused anger than rage. To give an idea: in this show there’s a painting called ‘Big bad rent time‘ (pretty self-explanatory really!) Another that has ‘Billion dollar sunset over re-development city‘ written on it, and another ‘Connect, complain, entertain‘ which is like an inspirational / motivational quote for cynics. Another piece ‘Welcome to Sydney‘ is an oblique comment on the anti-culture sentiment Sydney seems to be undergoing – lock out laws and noise complaints. In that painting I’ve used beer-bottle tops for a frame. I’m railing against what appears to be the increasing attempt to tame this cities vibrancy. I think we should have an event called ‘Art Year‘, art all year round, every year. One viewer said of my work ‘It’s political but I’m not sure what it’s saying‘. I like that ambiguity too. I hope I’m not preaching too much in the work. Ultimately the painting has to work as an interesting image, regardless of my intentions of meaning. The anger is a bit of a front or persona I like to exploit in my work too, I’d like to be the Mark E Smith of painting.

 

JH: You told me that someone viewing your work once said you should have been a signwriter. Why the text?

DK: Ha ha, yes that’s right! Some of the work in this show I’ve stripped right back to painting just text and nothing else so they are kind of ‘signs’. Why text? Well I can’t be the ONLY contemporary painter not using text!!!  But I’m allowed to because I invented text-art back in the year 2000 at art school. Seriously though, being a huge fan of serial texters Basquiat and Christopher Wool really influenced my work. Also whilst studying I became interested in the work of Adam Cullen who would often have bits of text sprayed alongside the creepy figures in his paintings – seemingly unrelated text and image that you’d then create your own connection between. Sometimes he’d use a quote or a song lyric or title, something out of context against the image. I really liked this strange collage-like effect, it was kind of like the text was a separate disembodied voice commenting on the image at times. These influences as well as advertising and now increasingly social media, where you get bombarded with things like a picture of a sunset or rainbow with some inane inspirational / motivational quote over the top . This combination of things has got me hooked on persevering with making my own word pictures.

Dirk Kruithof 'Entertainity (24/7 Troll)' acrylic, oil, enamel on canvas 2016

Dirk Kruithof ‘Entertainity (24/7 Troll)’ acrylic, oil, enamel on canvas 2016

 

JH: Dirk, is your show at Chrissie Cotter a significant one for you?

DK: Yes this show is significant for me, it’ll be my biggest show to date. I’m really looking forward to getting my new work out there and getting everyone’s feedback. I’m building on artistic themes and momentum that has been slowly gathering for me over the past 5 years or so. I participated in ‘The Other Art Fair’ in Sept last year and this is my first show since then, and my first solo show in 2 and 1/2 years so I’m rearing to go. Chrissie Cotter is a great gallery because it’s a large community-minded space and is not prohibitively expensive like so many art galleries in inner Sydney.

 

JH: What can we expect to see at CITY OF ILLUSION at Chrissie Cotter?

DK: ‘City of Illusion’ is the culmination of several years’ work exploring the theme of the urban environment, about 25 mixed media paintings in all, many of them using recycled / reclaimed or found materials. A few of the works feature the use of textas/markers but mostly acrylic paint, oils, and enamels are the mediums used. A large number of the works feature extensive use of words and bright colours. There will be a short live music performance on opening night, and drinks. All works for sale reasonably priced. Everyone welcome. Mention ‘Art Month’ and you can pay double for any artwork.

 

Dirk Kruithof Solo Art Exhibition – City of Illusion.

Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Pidcock Street Camperdown.

6 – 17 April, 2016.

Gallery Hours: 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.

 

Published March 2016 on www.sixtoeight.net

Sometimes too much Art seems barely enough. Sometimes too much Art is just too much.

After foolhardily taking in the MCA’s Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration and the AGNSW’s POP to POPism within hours of each other, I have been left shellshocked by the sheer scale, size and slammin’ power of the experience.

They don’t call them blockbusters for nothing, Jim.

At the entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Chuck Close show stand two huge portraits ­– as impassive and monumental as Easter Island moai heads. The two works span time and process: Bob, from 1969 is rendered in greyscale airbrush, cool and smooth; 2012’s portrait of Lou Reed, Lou, is a Jacquard tapestry, bristling with tiny digitally-mapped woven threads.

POP Lou, Chuck Close 2012

The two pictures say a lot about Close: they are pictures of pictures, images of photographs; they also show his restless search for media and process, whatever the material or labour-intensive cost involved. The show is subbed Prints, Process and Collaboration and is curated to reveal the mind-warping amount of planning, prep and plain hard graft involved.

The pictures also raise questions about where Close sits in current Art: he has always been a hard one to place, as his work, once aligned simplistically with photo-realism, actually seems closer to minimalism and conceptual art, based on grids of small cells as it is. He works on these small square cells, and, as they disappear, a monumental (photo-realistic) image is revealed.

The range of processes he adopts is staggering – from the (digitally mapped) 19th century Jacquard Loom weave, though plate-etching processes such as Spitbite and Mezzotint, to traditional Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock prints – the hours of painstaking labour involved suggest a meditative onanism as much as a saintly work-ethic masochism. This is the man who said “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.POP Self-Portrait (Yellow Raincoat), Chuck Close 2013

The craft element alone can take your breath away, but of course it is the startling beauty of this work that rivets you to the spot. The coloured self-portraits, broken as if seen through facetted glass, the deep rich earth tones of the square grid images, the delicious grays of the pulp-paper pictures are a spiritual experience, beyond craft.

And each face is coolly inscrutable, giving away no secrets apart from their planes, surfaces and shadows. Close’s hours of process seem to have seeped into the very fabric of these pictures, causing time to slow when you are in their presence.

Enough of this cool stuff: time for something hot!

Up the hill to the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ POP to POPism to see banners shouting Warhol! Sharp! Lichenstein! Haring! hanging along the front of the old girl.

Inside, we are reminded yet again how well the AGNSW does these things: 200 works (mainly killer, some filler) from over fifty lenders worldwide, have been brought together and divided up into seven themed areas for bite-sized consumption.

We are also reminded how heavily calorific Pop Art is – making each bite-sized chunk a gourmet junk food feast in itself.

‘Swinging London’ has Hockney, Peter Blake (that well-known album cover designer) and Richard Hamilton (that other well-known album cover designer) all in fine form. The art and music that zapped the world from London in the 60’s was unstoppable. That energy is here.

But it was ‘The American Dream’ that set Pop solid in history and stamped its icons into our DNA. Looking at Warhol’s Marilyns, Lichenstein’s comics (with their obsessively hand-drawn half-tone dots) and the super-slick billboard cut-ups of James Rosenquist (originally a pro commercial billboard painter) you are still stunned by their power, electricity and in-your-face sex.

POP In the Car, Roy Lichtenstein 1963

The American works dwarf anything else here. With exceptions such as Martin Sharp, or France’s Niki de Saint Phalle (her 1968 ‘Black Beauty’ raises the smile that good Pop should), the Euro and especially Australian work seems almost timid by comparison and less sharply focussed. The Annandale Imitation Realist work of Australians Colin Lanceley and Mike Brown cloyingly piles junk on junk, where Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblages of street trash speak with poetry and a dusty grandeur.

Andy Warhol is said to have been “the only artist who truly understood the Twentieth Century”. His work here reinforces that smart idea: his Marilyns are confections of sex and repetition, his electric chair pictures too cool. 1965’s ‘Electric Chair’ has a casual, ill-considered cropping (though of course exquisitely considered) and is rendered in a magenta and lime-yellow colourway. The nearby pictures of Jackie Onassis are black on sky blue. It is all the same. We read of an execution and flip the magazine page to see who Jackie has married now. Our feelings are deadened by repetitive sensation. Warhol’s frustrating interview style – all boyish ‘gee’s and ‘I don’t know’s, often misunderstood as irony – mirrored this. He truly understood that history was rolling over us too fast and he nailed it again and again.POP Electric Chair, Andy Warhol 1965

Other Americans such as Claes Oldenburg – here represented by a huge ‘soft’ cloth electric fan – and the gutsy hot-rodded Ed Kienholz, say the same thing in their own big, bad American way.

Modern Pop – or the Art that continues Pop’s sexy throb down the years – is represented here by reference to ‘Popism’, a brief local movement and 1982 NGV exhibition, the shining light being the hypersexualised Juan Davila who carried the shock element of Pop aloft in his pornographic vistas.

Of course, the spirit of Pop is most alive today in the marketplace that spawned it – the world of advertising and popular entertainment. References are made every day to Pop Art, the movement which referenced mass marketing and junk TV in the first place.

Sometimes too much Art seems barely enough. Sometimes too much Art is just too much. The work of Chuck Close fills you up with beauty, lovingly made, a strand or cell at a time. The blast of Pop Art at POP to POPism fills you up with electric energy, splashed on and plugged in at high voltage.

Sometimes too much Art is just too much. But if you can handle it, it is worth the wild ride.

 

Published December 2014 on megaphoneoz.com