EMILE CIRCKENS | white, back to zero

February 4 – February 27, 2017

White, back to Zero Emile Circkens (Soerabaja 1924 – 1997 Amsterdam)
sales exhibition – paintings drawings reliefs

For many years the work was kept in damp depots of the Dienst voor Verspreide Kunstwerken and in a dusty attic in Amsterdam. It has now been rediscovered and can be seen from Fefruary 4th to 27th, 2017 at Bert Kuipers Kunsthandel in Enschede.

How can something that is almost nothing be something?

A first superficial look on a work of his art does not offer what you usually expect. The regularity in the object – folded paper, drawn lines, squares in series, strips with incisions, contained in a transparent box – looks a bit boring. The differences in the image elements are so small that they do not stay with you, they hardly evoke any tension or emotion. Have a look and you have seen it.
But when you turn away from such an object, something strange happens. A sensation occurs that almost looks like homesickness, a longing for what you have seen before, while that something you have seen represented almost nothing. And then when you return to the work you see that the light has fallen differently into the spaces of the object, that the contours of the forms have translated into other shadows on the underlying image surface. Structures without a hierarchy in forms and the whole that looked like an insignificant sum of the parts present themselves differently, while the work has nevertheless remained the same. In what just seemed to be industrially manufactured, small imperfections now stand out, which betray the manual, they become accents that personify the object.

The great German impressionist Max Liebermann once pointed out that: “(…)die wirkliche Aufgabe der Mahlerei is nicht die Darstellung der Gegenstände, sondern die der Reflexe des Lichtes auf die Gegenstände.”

It is in light of this statement that you can look at the artworks of Emile Circkens. The work is what it is; a large piece of paper, folded into strips and glued to wood. If the light on the object changes, then different shadows fall on the underlying image areas. This work facilitates light in movement, space and time. It is not the representation or the performance that is decisive, but rather the facilitation.The light here is the architect of the soul.

Emile Circkens, when he arrives in the Netherlands in 1946, leaves behind a troubled homeland of the Dutch East Indies. Like many others Post-War artist’s he has an impressionist, expressionist and then an informal period, before he comes to the core of his real work: the ultimate abstraction. He follows in the footsteps of Bart van der Lek, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Ad Dekkers and Jan Schoonhoven. He is a contemporary of the last two.

Jan Schoonhoven is lucky that his work is noticed at the Sao Paulo Biennale in the late sixties of the last century. Emile Circkens does not have that happiness and that while his work – I dare to state it here – was made much more delicate, more sophisticated and perhaps with a much greater discipline. The experts know that the “when-moment” is crucial for the artist’s success and his place in art history. The work of the old master Schoonhoven got that position. It became almost unaffordable.

Emile Circkens lived in a social and artistic isolation caused by his post-traumatic stress syndrome, left over from his experiences during the short but very violent Bersiap time in his hometown of Surabaya. For him, the “when-moment” did not come, while he made just as ingenious art as his famous contemporary Jan Schoonhoven.

“Awesome! Bert’s passion for and knowledge of art is contagious. The opening of the exhibition of works by my father, Emile Circkens, was absolutely perfect. Everything was right: the mix of art, cosiness, audience, building, design and atmosphere was top notch. Chapeau! And Bert Kuipers & family, what a warm and lovely people you are!”