Bas vd Hurk and Joep van Liefland
On a Clear day I can see Forever/ the new sentimentality
@BCM, Tilburg, 2009
Michael S. Riedel
Joep van Liefland
Hank Schmidt in der Beek
Bas van den Hurk
Dennis Loesch 9
curated by: Koen Delaere, Remco Torenbosch and Ulrich Wulff
A group of renowned German artists has been invited by Whatspace to exhibit work in Tilburg. The first major group show of Whatspace showcases art of the highest quality in innovative and experimental ways. Fourteen German artists, the majority of whom are based in Berlin, work within the tradition of abstract and conceptual art. The method of working which these artists employ, both traditional as well as subverting the traditional, is connected to the work of the Dutch artists involved in this exhibition. This connecting narrative is seen in the dual context of a continuation of modernism, and an exploration of the authenticity of the art work.
What is ‘New Sentimentality’? What does it mean, and specifically, what is the art that flows from it? In short, it is about the transforming of two extremes which converge critically in a work of art. These extremes are: the representation of a physical void, versus the desire to affect the viewer. It concerns the paradox of a cognitive image on the one hand and the ability to arouse powerful emotions on the other. And the question of whether and how they can coincide. Because if there is no manifest representation, how is it then possible to affect people through art? And is that desirable anyway?
Within Russian culture in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s artists demonstrated a great deal of interest in the concept of ‘sentimental aesthetics’. The New Sentimentality is a literary concept that sprung from this and it is occupied with the various polarities within aesthetics. The Russian Sergei Gandlevsky, a leading poet, also describes this trend as “‘a critical sentimentalism’: holding the middle ground between two extremes, namely a lofty and detached Metarealism that ignores contemporary life, and Conceptualism, which is deliberately reductionist, ridiculing all stilted ideals and models of discourse". (1)
A 21st century continuation of modernism and the myth of the concept of art
An important backdrop to the exhibition is the relationship between the paradigm shifts of the 1990s and those of the start of the 21st century. Using the conceptual trends in art from the sixties and seventies, artists in the ‘90s developed immaterial structures and processes. Making an identifiable art object was often of lesser importance than the redefining of the concept of art as art. Interdisciplinaryism, collaboration and an emphasis on process were the most notable characteristics.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the emphasis has shifted once more to the work itself. Artists utilise the freedoms acquired in the ‘90s to once again make physical works, the difference being that these can now be deployed in various contexts. A striking point is the sophisticated way in which these artists are able to traverse various social and institutional spheres. In this exhibition, Whatspace is seeking to engage the viewer in a dialogue and a confrontation on the subject of the above themes.
A place in a greater whole
The New Sentimentality intends to be an investigation into the relationship between good art and a deliberately flexible approach to process. It asks itself the question of how powerful emotions affecting the viewer can be reconciled with a physically empty image and how such individually strong works can achieve a place in a greater whole without relinquishing their own identity.
‘It would appear that Conceptualism should exclude the serious usage of words such as “soul”, “tear”, “angel”, “beauty”, “truth” and “the Kingdom of Heaven” (words used by the most popular poet of the 1990s, the Conceptualist Timur Kibirov) in their primary meaning. But here, at the very peak of Conceptualism and, as it were, at the exit from it, suddenly these same words are being written again, some even with capital letters, … (2)
1. Epstein, Mikhael. Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Late Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1999, pp 456-468
2. Epstein 1999: p 458
an essay on the new sentimentality by Dr. Ben Schomakers you find here.