With the title “femmeBRUT,” Marja van Putten organized a large solo exhibition of twelve large and monumental works in February 2022. New works of stature in which the use of new techniques and ideas allowed her to give a deeper layer to her themes more and better than ever.
Already during the realization of the works for the exhibition, but especially after it, Marja van Putten realized that ‘femmeBRUT’ could encompass much more than just the title of an exhibition. It became not only a personal mission statement but also the flag for her search for female identity and female visual language in contemporary visual art. It is also the link to the gender discussion, an examination of visual language and roles in art as assigned to women and to men.
feminine, masculine imagery?
With this insight, many puzzle pieces from her long career as an artist fell into place.
Not all of her work falls under the ‘femmeBRUT’ heading, but many of her questions about the origin and future of her subject matter, about the role of women in society and in the visual arts finally find an answer in ‘femmeBRUT’. Is it possible to define ‘femmeBRUT’? Tricky. It is primarily a benchmark for her creative input and output. It is a filter to test one’s own initiatives on the personal mix of tradition and authenticity and to look at the work of especially other female artists, in order to discover differences and similarities from one’s own conviction.
With female imagery as a starting point, Van Putten likes to look for the broad context and has an eye for issues and connections that are at play in the field of gender, history and Western cultural heritage. This search for common ground or, conversely, abrasive starting points is an essential part of Marja van Putten’s artistry. And thus of femmeBRUT.
New techniques and new insights
Now that there is fortunately more attention for textile art and art made by women, Van Putten feels all the more the need to give it her own vision. She searches for the limits of materials and uses both media alternately coarsely and refined by painting with a fine brush or broom, sewing on small sequins or using large stitches to attach ragged pieces of cloth in props to the canvas. The works are abstract and make palpable an underlying tension precisely because unusual combinations and contrasts are juxtaposed.
The exhibition “femmeBrut” consisted of 12 monumental paintings of 2 by 2 meters with paint and textiles. The canvases were partially made using the longarm machine, a special sewing machine 3 meters wide. With this longarm machine, the needle moves over the fabric instead of the fabric passing under the needle. This also allowed Van Putten to “paint with textile” in the middle of the canvas and draw with the sewing machine.
For Van Putten, this monumentality is an essential part of the “femmeBRUT” philosophy. She is averse to the fiddling so often seen as typically feminine and working on small formats. ‘femmeBRUT’ stands for large(ish), imposing work that creates inevitable stopping power and demands attention.
Textile elements always played a role in Van Putten’s paintings, but in the new works, textiles clearly have the leading role. She finds the combination of the “clean” textiles that quickly evoke vulnerability and intimacy along with the “dirty” of paint fascinating. Van Putten uses paint in combination with materials and techniques traditionally associated with women’s work and crafts. Thus they function as a mix of protest against and admiration for the history of women’s labor. For respect for the role of women’s labor in the past is also a pillar of ‘femmeBRUT’ and goes hand in hand with a strongly motivated striving for more equality and reward in the present and future of the visual arts.