Art history as a network
Art history seems to me more like a network of lines, directions than one chronological line in time.
Chronological timeline in Art history
It was in the end of the 80’s when modern art, fundamental art, and the adage less is more were still the leading principals, especially at art academies. It seemed that disciplines and materials were connected to fixed meanings and symbolic contexts like textiles are feminine, steel is cold, oil paint is for ‘real painters’, red is emotional, white is innocent, and so on.
My personal system versus chronological timeline in art history
Because these fixed meanings limited my possibilities in using disciplines and materials in art making I started with what can be seen as an archaeological project. I constructed a system in which I organised my personal fascinations, my personal background and upbringing, ‘art history’ references and current events. I categorised and label all objects, thoughts, everything that took place in this system: ‘GRW system or system of imagination’ (Green, Red, White, labels of the system). After I developed this system in 1989 I was enabled to be free to choose in form, discipline or content, though I was explicit to call myself a painter.
Identity has always been one of the main subjects in my work; what is the origin of objects, what are the meanings and thoughts behind them? What is personal identity and how is it related to sexes, countries, religion, class? How is it ‘constructed’? I was born in 1956 and grew up with a religious, (Reformed) background in an enclosed group, which opened up in the 60’s and 70’s, the times that brought new possibilities & prosperity, criticism & rebellion. I have been part of the political movements & subcultures in the 80’s, after these experiences I became an ‘artist’ proper at an older age in my lifespan, when I was 33.
As a female artist, I have a connection to female and feminist art. My position was mostly given by the idea to interact with (male) art history. Especially in my painting I referred many times to ‘Old Masters in painting’. This was also in line with the development of art history into one single direction. Fortunately, times have changed in the last 30-40 years, this is no longer an extraordinary approach.
For women to take an independent position in art history is full of contradictions, I noticed during my art practice: artworks (of men and women) are always placed in relation to the existing references, e.g. a work of textile can’t be seen as autonomous separated from so called female art forms. As a male artist, this can of course work differently but with the same ingredients. Another thought to explain this, is the fact that you can only refer to images of artists that are commonly known. Female art is rarely ever quoted. Quotations are seen from this perspective as reinforcing gender roles. My solution for this was to show contradictions, oppositions in one work. Always show more than one option, to show complexity instead of peeling things off to clear statements. With this my art was in opposition to the modern art tradition I mentioned previously.
My invented system needs constantly upgrades. I can see my work getting more focused and more direct.