"Hard-Edge Realism" by Erik Adriaan van der Grijn
Introduced by Sir Basil Goulding at the David Hendriks Gallery
Dublin, Ireland, April 27th 1976
I should like to refer you to the noun “Congruity”: not so much because Erik van der Grijn’s work exemplifies it – as because it doesn’t not. This slender nicety of phrase comes within sleight of the visual parallel which we are here encountering.
Congruity means, centrally, “accordance with the requirements of the case”: incongruity means what you thence suppose. Hold on: I’ll be back. The real subject matter of all these paintings may be described as “the communally pragmatic expressed in the popularized idiomatic” – road safety adjurations formalized into geometrical and chromatic shorthand. Very curiously those whose profession it is to have this injunctions effectively highwayed – people you would not suppose to be artists – have gotten around (the Americanism justified) to doing that in compelling hard-edge shapes and colour-contests. But more curious still is the fact that all of us who ineluctably encounter these powerful forms and hieroglyphs have hitherto abstracted from them – what? Impact only; scarcely at all observation, properly defined; and still less aesthetic significance (the presently incumbent successor to the late-lamented Emotion). That one can say that van der Grijn’s personal sensitivity is first to discover, collect, and distill these latter aspects of such blatant ordinarities is bizarre: but it provides us with that mixture of satisfaction-with-excitement wherein one may once in a way suddenly alight upon a solution which has been “right in front of one’s nose all the time”.
Besides, however, there’s this other odd finding; that his means of transmutation are as those of making a silk purse out of sow’s ear. The literalness of the object, upon the one hand, is scarcely altered *but, on the other, it becomes exquisite in a new right. This has its secret magic, the artist’s. There is not space here to dilate; but let me not fail to notice, for you, those delicately “crooked” “straights” “imperfect” geometrics, “shunted” separacies, “discrete” entities, differingly-same colours (four yellows, three “blacks” in a painting where you’d aver one of each), the artful-innocence of his brushwork’s slapdash exactitude. You must dither in stimulation, too, between the closeness and the remoteness of the paintings versus the realities; between the appropriacy and inappropriacy of their exquisite ingredience versus their coarse simulacra.
And so, space expiring, I return to my opening thought; expanding it now to the proposition that it is Erik van der Grijn’s achievement of an amalgam between congruity and incongruity which results in that rare connoisseur quality of a cutting edge to satisfaction – without which the latter may tend to verge on a too easy sedation. One could go on to soliloquize that it is generally the display of some eminent and evident validity (a wide word of narrow meaning) which provides a cutting edge, and that in turn it is that results in that old-fashioned thing called Beauty. Maybe, eh, one should define beauty thus? However that be “The Discovery of the Significance of the Ordinary” is a phrase of mine in which I am wont to identify a main, if not the main, break-through of “modern art”.
This artist’s latest work is perhaps a new milestone (appropriate simile) along that road.
Sir Basil Goulding
April 27th 1976
*You must belabour him to show you some of the original “snaps”. You won’t otherwise believe how close is the canvas to the lens.