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Erik Adriaan van der Grijn at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery
New York, 1994
Van der Grijn began work on a series of paintings under the title ‘My Temple, My Prison’ in ’92. For those who are familiar with the themes of his repertoire it was a plausible development (van der Grijn has always been engrossed with the incongruous, but more of that later). There is no doubt that the previous year, ’91, had laid ground to much fecund soil from which to inspire discourse on the apparent chaos in which we are living, are in fact imprisoning ourselves. This observation is hardly revelational –indeed ‘My Temple, My Prison’ has a massy biblical resonance to it – nevertheless topical versions of ancient concerns inevitably carry their own patina to invoke reassessment. While a visual statement is capable of dealing with historical or social issues, if there’s to be any long term interest, these issues have to be dealt with personally and obliquely. There necessitates a fusion between what is private (obsessions*, perhaps phantoms, intuitions of an emotional surge from dark corners) and a deliberate intellectual projection. What each of us will absorb from ‘My Temple, My Prison’ is finally a personal intrigue for the success, or not, of a painting ultimately lies in its ability to excite a dialogue between its visual impact and the experiences and ideas of the viewer.
In defiance to popular trends van der Grijn still believes it is possible to transcend mundanity through the medium of oil on canvas. For him the very act of painting is a love affair of necessity and intense personal drama. One is tempted to eulogize on his technical ability, his unerring eye for sizing a canvas. In current terms, these words are exhausted and curiously van der Grijn would no doubt fart with ennui too. He presumes a painterly authority to go without saying. But it’s that authenticity which provides us with a mixture of satisfaction-with-excitement where in one may once in a while come across an artist capable of confirming the relevance of painting in the vast arena of art to-day.
And so to get back to van der Grijn’s obsession with the incongruous or what could be better described as his congruencies of the discord. Perhaps the validation of this slender nicety of phrase is best left to the work itself. It is, after all, the artists achievement of an amalgam between the two which results in that rare quality of a cutting edge to equilibrium.
* Van der Grijn’s been with yellow and black for a lifetime. Ireland, in ’64, offered a veritable harvest of yellow and black warning signs, road hazards, danger signals. He painted the black crosses, yellow boards, yellow and chevrons, chequered walls, ugly colours, ugly objects, set in the sublime beauty of the Irish landscape. Thirty years on his treatment of yellow and black in this context -“the writing on the wall”? – is pertinent.