Other paintings by Linda Arts

Alex de Vries, Head of media and design (NL)

Start with the idea that you know nothing; that's how you can estimate the value of art best.

In order to express yourself as a painter, you have to ask yourself what suffices for you: what is enough? First and foremost, you need to provide the world with an outlook and offer some insight. A painter has to hold up something to the world, so that the viewer can take a direction in that world or, if necessary, be able to leave that world. That direction can be the opposite of what the artist envisages, though that opposition has actually often been anticipated by the artist. Linda Arts is a painter who banishes us from that world without the slightest consideration. Because of that, there is little to go on. One becomes lost in her work.

The ultimate consequence of painting's two-dimensionality is that this is mainly a vanishing point, a well into which everything falls, or an infinite vista in which everything dissolves. That is the reason why painting continues to be on the verge of dying, and eager consent is given to its euthanasia. Pull the plug on it, they say. A near-death experience is the only escape route that offers some light at the end of the tunnel. The intention of painting, however, is by no means to continue vegetating as the comatose, practically brain-dead discipline that it all too often is thought to be. There is also a different way of thinking on the basis of painting: not in terms of the flat surface, not in terms of the illusionary or even the nonrepresentational. The moment at which the vanishing point or the infinite future is abandoned marks the entrance to an unknown realm, undeveloped by painting. That happens to be what Linda Arts has done. She has dispensed with perspective, because this does not work for her. However, rather than reverting to an earlier perspectiveless time, she enters a different territory. 'Territory' is not the word, since it has no dimensions or horizon. She enters a realm that expands until it eventually contracts again. Whether that will occur with a bang or a sigh, we have no way of knowing. For the time being she is merely holding her breath.

Being an artist is not about 'looking at things differently', nor about opting for a 'new angle', but about explaining how one looks at life. Linda Arts wonders about this in a unique way and is far from finding an answer. In her investigation of what her work amounts to in the world, she arrives at discoveries that, in an outward sense, refer to concepts from art history, such as the minimal, the concrete, the formal, the optical and so on. Thus when one sees a painting by Linda Arts, there is no immediate tendency to look at it on the basis of the unfamiliar. Once that becomes clear, then one is lost - stranded in art-historical nihilism that leaves little room for escape. There everything is coming to an end. Because things follow a circular line of development in the history of Western art, one has to end somewhere before starting all over again. After abstraction, for instance, comes figuration, until we get abstraction again so that figuration can be invented anew. According to that line of thought, Linda Arts must produce abstract paintings, since she doesn't paint figuratively. There is no sense that the work eludes that art-historical categorization. For that it too closely resembles the references one has stored in one's head. In order to see what one is dealing with, some detachment is needed. Arts makes different paintings. Her work makes it clear that acting on the basis of prior knowledge only reveals one's shortcomings. Here one doesn't get away with that.

The paintings of Linda Arts are two-dimensional as objects: they consist of paint on a flat surface. That is their form as marketable goods. Be that as it may. It is, however, the 'lunar phase' of painting, where light is shed on only one aspect of its appearance. Arts has made a circumscribing movement and approaches painting from the other side, on which light has never been shed, at least not by the source of light that blinds us when we look into it. But because we cannot see the back of the moon due to the fact that it is not illuminated by the sun, we can hardly claim that no light falls on it. If we merely acknowledge what we see, we could easily close our eyes to what we do not wish to know. Linda Arts wishes to know something other than what she sees and finds familiar. Only by making paintings can she imagine that. She paints something that she has not seen, only thought. It is the consequence of her ignorance. Knowledge needs to start somewhere: with the unknown. That is done, as it were, by groping. Little by little, the nonrepresentational realm in which the artist has landed is explored by rotating in the dark and extending outward in the environment. There is still no color or form, only darker and lighter areas that repeat each other; they are actually the same or are, in any case, interchangeable. These are not even observations, since nothing at all can be seen: they are thoughts being formed by the artist in order to imagine the environment. Though still completely lost, she does gain footing once that way of thinking has been established. And this leads the way to the further development of the painting. That must have a specific appearance - though at times it may turn out to be larger or smaller than planned. Still having no idea where that painting is headed, the artist can opt, for the time being, to find a way back. But as soon as the next step is taken, that stage has been passed. Now the distanced travelled becomes all-absorbing, like a magnetic force.

This is not a matter of being drawn from here to there, over and above, along or below, from front to back, or out and in. Those relationships give that trajectory no destination. It is a matter of presence or absence. That is the only choice that Linda Arts can make. To start on the painting or not. There is no question that it can be made. The question is whether she wants to make it. To paint space in a time when no one sees her. Nothing but that painting, the all-absorbing force. Because we don’t know what we see, a painting by Linda Arts appears to be a form of optical deception. In a rhythmic sequence of white and black bands, the eye gives in to the brain, which takes off and leaves us reeling. That should give rise to the idea that the concern is not the shortcomings of the eye, but thoughts not easily reached. And if thoughts cannot be reached, we can always try taking a better look. That is what painting is about: looking and thinking. Being able to see something and thereby experience it: painting allows us to look at it, so that we can think about it.

Gradually it becomes clear the the work of Linda Arts generates itself and has no external influence. She has entered the realm of painting with an open mind and some rudimentary sediments that no longer came to life for her. Over these she has placed a grid in order to map out and section off the area in which she can be active. Section by section, everything has been excavated and brushed off by her. With meticulous manual work she arrives at a revaluation of what has fallen prey to the indifference of the times and thereby discover another way of dealing with this and ascribing importance to it. She comes up with something other than what was left behind. To everything found she assigns personal significance. After the surface has been broken up, she introduces depth to it. And that depth shines like lacquer.

The alternation of light and dark is a phenomenon by which we divide the course of time. Through that Arts brings about a reversal in the given situation. Her paintings, but to an even greater extent her light installations, are carefully organized forms of obfuscation and illumination. A space which she has sectioned off by way of light tends to center the focus more on the parts beyond the light's reach than on the brightly lit areas. These happen to be overexposed, as it were, and exist only due to the contrast with the dark side. The light itself is given a shadow. With an eclipse of the sun, the moon is bathed in light, but its illuminated side remains out of view. It's as though we are blindly staring at our own enlarged pupil and its surrounding ring of white. In the light we see that it is dark. In the dark we see that it is light. The concern of Arts is to take an inexplicable phenomenon - no one has ever been able to define what light is - and give it an artistic shape. That is how she gets a grip on existence.

An artwork by Linda Arts is no natural phenomenon. Nor is it a rendering of that. Everything that is painted in order to show us what we know can be considered a form of deception. That is why Arts paints what we do not see and do not know. Even when that has been painted, it remains elusive to us. Her work is an extra space in the world that we inhabit. That space can be entered. Not for the sake of escape but in order to know where we stand, namely outside it.