Sunday, 8 November 2009

Rezi van Lankveld
Pieta, 2005
Oil on Board 78 x 65 cm
Not Seen – Private Collection

I have seen work by van Lenkveld at The Frieze Art Fairs in London, but unfortunately I haven’t seen this particular painting which I believe is now in a private collection.

Van Lenkveld works on paper, wooden panels and on canvas but essentially her process is the same. She places the support on the floor and pours tonally similar paint until the surface becomes a pool of colour. The image is coaxed out of the meeting of the two colours with here brushwork helping the serendipity along.

In Pieta her process is slightly different and very similar to the one I use myself. The base colour has been brushed vertically down the panel and then it looks as though the second colour has been replaced with glaze medium. Using brushes loaded with medium she has worked into the image teasing the marks into the semblance of a figure.

The head of the reclining figure is thrown back so that we see the underside of the nose, the jawbone and the exposed neck. The chest is a fusion of marks made by dabbing medium into the paint and the legs fold to the right hand side. The figure is wearing a pair of light coloured high heeled shoes done in a similar way to the chest. Vaguely discernable attendant figures are on either side, both less detailed than the subject and the quick brush marks and areas of light tell us little about what is happening. The ground that the paint is applied to plays an important role, it becomes a dynamic absence. Something that is “lost” but still present, seen through the thin layer of paint, as though the image was projected onto it rather than painted.

All her work fluctuates between figuration and abstraction in this way and the viewer’s perception shifts uneasily between the pictorial representation and the process by which the image was made. In my opinion it is when this disillusionment is finely balanced that the work evokes a sense of melancholy. Despite the muted colour schemes and sombre palette, if either the image is too obvious or the process too dominant, then the work doesn’t strike the note of sadness for me.

©blackdog 2009


  1. A provoking piece of black-grey art and an interesting painting style as you have described very exactly! Yes, you are right "All her work fluctuates between figuration and abstraction..." With my inner eyes I can remember or recognize a kind of Pieta-ensemble- but its contrast to traditional presentations of this theme are extrem, provoking and almost blasphemic for a religious- minded person- I don't remember a third figure (except Mary and the dead Jesus; "high heeled shoes"?!) Interesting are your last remarks (differenciating between melancholy- sadness). I could feel a kind of sorrow while looking at this painting because of the general greyness which might evoke such a feeling- I accept that in our modern times it is not possible to paint or to perform a Pieta in the traditional way although the human suffering experiences are still present: There are many mothers who have lost their sons in wars...!

  2. My most loved Pieta: by Michelangelo (I only saw as copy)- but it were unfair to compare her with this modern painting!

  3. I doubt it is meant in any blasphemous context - I suspect she doesn't set out with an image in mind, but finds suggestions within the abstractions. I wouldn't want to draw any comparison with Michaelangelo, nor with Bellini's Pieta which is in Venice. Totally different.