In fact, no one wants to believe that the work of art is decorative. But the moment one asks, “What do I do with this canvas? What does it become in this space?” one quickly realizes that it is impossible to escape the decorative effect.
— Daniel Buren
This exhibition takes its name from ‘Modern Pictures for Modern Rooms: Abstract art in contemporary settings’, an exhibition that took place in London at gallery Duncan Miller in 1936. This exhibition introduced the work by great abstract artists such as Piet Mondriaan and Alexander Calder, and was installed in a living room setting, to show the gallery’s customers how one was to live with abstract art.
Before modern art, art embellished architecture and surroundings, being a catalyst for interaction between people. After modernity painting left behind its decorative and functional aspect and became autonomous. A painting was no longer used to fill a wall, but made to exist by itself. It became the protagonist in a story instead of part of the decor. Modern art is mostly presented as a kind of magnet: it pulls the viewers gaze towards it and is the producer of meaning. The decorative functions differently: it attracts the gaze only to release it again in its surroundings. This exhibition investigates the grey area in the functioning of art as an object and its relationship to its environment.
In many exhibitions of contemporary art, the relation between object and subject, artwork and viewer, is still quite static. In the applied arts the object is never the lead actor, but automatically a part of its surroundings. Can autonomous works within an exhibition restructure its relationship to the viewer by playing with the installation environment? By taking Billytown’s space as the starting point of our exhibition decor, we created an artificial installation, which is never meant to mimic an artwork, but simply as a means to create an artificial support structure reminiscent of familiar yet dysfunctional surroundings in which the works of art can take position. Modern Pictures for Modern Rooms combines the work of two completely different types of paintings, that flirt with modernism, optical illusions and applied arts.
Thomas Trum (1989) works on the intersection of art and design. Most of his work evolves around a material research of paint and techniques to apply this. Using the studio as a place for experiment, he looks into unconventional ways to paint on paper, canvas or walls. For example, he used a super sized felt pen, a machine for road line marking and brushes attached to a drill. His very active way of working is often based on trial-and-error: the result of his actions are never pre-determined , keeping enthusiasm and velocity part of the end result.
Lieven Hendriks (1970) takes everyday subjects in which the human touch is visible as a starting point for his work. For example, he paints nails in a wall, broken stained glass or fogged mirrors. He uses his technical virtuosity as a painter to make the viewer think about the way we are used to look at paintings. Although his images seem to be crystal clear at first, they actually make us doubt through their ambiguity.
Artists: Lieven Hendriks, Thomas Trum
Venue: Billytown, The Hague
Exhibition title: Modern pictures for modern rooms
Organized by: Billytown and Rianne Groen
Date: June 28 – July 20, 2019
Text/Press release and images provided by the event.
© Lieven Hendriks, Thomas Trum; Billytown, The Hague NETHERLANDS E.U.