Vanishing point

The theme is classical: from within a space a connection is made with the nature outside by means of the art. Famous examples are the villas constructed by Renaissance architects, who based the design of entire buildings on this principle. More contemporary were the Land Art projects by Robert Smithson, in which interventions in landscapes that are difficult to visit were presented in photo's and drawings in a gallery or museum, so that an abstract inside/outside-relation came into being. By taking note of thedisplay, the spectator can make a mental connection with the absent work of art outside, and, according to Smithson's many texts, this was what the artist intended.

Regarding the new installation by sculptress Joos Clijsen, it is not necessary for the spectator to work through theoretical writings in order to be able to share the concept involved, not so much because the installation
is less complex or unambiguous, but because the inside/outside-relation can be visually perceived. The large window of the exposition space offers a splendid view of the source of the exposed objects and drawings.

Among other subjects, the large black and white drawings show the horizon, which can be seen through the window, while the man-sized monumental sculptures derive their form and material from the just visible trees and earth at the horizon. The organic looking, somewhat irregular forms are abstracted tree leafs made of loam. Thus, the sculptures are an interpretation and transformation of elements of the existing situation.

In a similar way, Clijsen's contemporary work is related to her existing oeuvre - it is an interpretation and transformation of ideas in earlier works. Monumentality and earthliness are recurring characteristics, as well as the almost paradoxical combination of opposites, such as abstract ideas and organic material, past and future, far away and nearby, even so nearby that human proportions as a measurement for the perception of space are erased, as in a virtual reality experience.

The visitor is confronted with a need to reorient himself in relation to the present situation: what is his position under the sky when trustworthy criteria have shifted?

Clijsen's work does not answer the question, it only puts ordinary conditions into another perspective. A tree leaf is not fully grown in spring. Only in a future still unknown, growing within the tree, will it be able to flourish. In the same way, a three-dimensional model of a tree leaf, whose size measures up to a sturdy visitor, will develop in the mind of that visitor into a new idea about the perception of tree leaves, or the rendering thereof, especially when the original leaf is not only located far away at the horizon, but also far away in time. Seen from a different perspective, a visitor of the exhibition, even a sturdy one, is not more than a point on someone's horizon, invisible in an unknown dimension.

Irene de Graaff
Amsterdam, maart 2000