I saw "Caterpillar" by Raymond Cuijpers work at his last show at Van Zijll Langhout (you can read about the tour here). The intensity, lines and multiple layers create a complex landscape designed by a light and free hand. The motions are broad but still specific, like a topographical map viewed without your glasses. It's a drafted and beautiful piece, created by someone who knows that there are at least five colors in the color white. As I talked to Marian about the artist, she told me that he was open to studio visits - which I jumped on because there is nothing better than seeing art at it's source; the studio.
There are a thousand ways to explore an artist's work: the historical perspective of the genre, the influences of schools and mentors and the analysis of technique, to name a few. Though I enjoy the mirad angles of exploration but my background is in humanistic psychology, so I always desire to know the people behind the art from the belief that when we connect with a each other we can open an understanding to what we create - this is human nature. I may not understand what a nuclear physicist does, but when I meet one, I will know why they chose to do it... it's personal history, it shapes and defines us and for Cuijpers, it was football.
When I found out that Raymond Cuijpers used to be a footballer (USA=read soccer) something in his work snapped into place. You can see the influence of the game layered in the paint. How did he go from the field to the canvas? I made up my mind that he fell into art after football and I am happy to have been wrong - they happened at the same time and if anything, art was first.
My first impression of Cuijpers' studio is that he needs more room:
I am always curious about what artist's do with their years and years of back work. For Cuijpers, it becomes referenced in new work, inspiration for new directions and even repurposed into new work, providing a historical background for new paint. The desire to pull the studio apart made my hands itchy, so I had some tea instead and let Cuijpers give me the tour while he talked about his background.
A lot has been said about Raymond Cuijpers - videos made, articles written and just to cover all the ground, he even wrote a book, Kunstenaar Op Kaalheide (Artist at Kaalheide). His story is about making choices, mostly about the ones that can get made for you. He chose art after highschool because it came easy, the same as football. And while he studied at Academie Beeldende Kunsten in Maastrichtwith Frits van der Zander he trained at the Roda JC. He spent an hour commuting from school to practice, which he says gave him the time to switch roles from artist to footballer.
What stood out for me the most about my meeting with Cuijpers is that even though his decision to focus mainly on art came from injuries and a missing contract, his narrowing of focus hasn't left anything behind. It's now been years since he's been on the professional side of the field, but the game hasn't left him - it shows in his newer works play by play.
As I review the last thirteen years of his work (thanks to a very comprehensive website), the later work appear to be purely abstract, but, on closer inspection, his lines imply otherwise, they are the players on the field. I thought that I would always see the game in his work, but it's only really in the last four years that it's shown up stronger and stronger. It seems as time has passed, his abstraction has focused more and more on his history. Which seems like a natural process; as we age and mature we tend to look backwards, or maybe the past keeps catching up. To get a sense of where he's been in is work, here's some select pieces from his site:
As we explored the studio I found out that Cuijpers is founding member of the group, The Act of Painting - A select group of artists who's focus is the act of painting purely from the perspective of the brush. The abstract does not need a content base, topic or motive, it is the movement of the paint and the hand that guides the brush. The color, the texture of the paint as it moves, the lines, dark and light are the principles at play. Though Cuijpers work seems like the layer plays of the best football matches ever played, his work is a perfect fit for the act of painting.
To see some of the latest work of Cuijpers and his band of abstractionists, The Act of Painting is having a group show that opens November 7th through December 1st at TETEM Kunstruimte - or see if you can catch him in his studio.