by Hanneke de Man
The art of Karin van Pinxteren deals with longing, the longing for contact with the other and with the surrounding space. At the same time there is an awareness that a true encounter is out of the question. Though the mind can run rampant and explore the most remote corners of space, the body remains subject to gravity. Similarly, the relationship with the other has its limits, due to our physical and psychological make-up and barriers in human communication.
These themes are the fabric of Karin van Pinxteren’s two-and three-dimensional work, her spatial installations and her performances. She has made her art a stage for the continual oscillation between the act of approaching and that of maintaining distance, between seeking intimacy and withdrawing into oneself. In her work this theme takes shape in austere spatial installations, poetic writings and concise images.
The ‘hostess’ is a recurrent motif. In her impeccable suit, this character constitutes the key figure in Van Pinxteren’s performances and video works; business-like and poised, but also helpful and obliging. Through the anonymity of her outfit, she inspires trust and directs the audience’s attention to herself. But the words in ink, stamped on the visitor’s hand by the artist’s alter ego as a means of granting access to her exhibitions, are less noncommittal than her appearance suggests. One text reads Inhale with me. Those very words now hover, as a small appeal, above the grey pedestal on which Van Pinxteren places the stamp and inkpad during her performances. Liberated from its role as an accessory, leaning against the wall, the pedestal itself has become sculpture. In a related work the artist seems to be grappling with her own role as well: I confess, I am an artist is the title of the projection in which the hostess, seen from behind, tries to maneuver the pedestal.
The ellipse is another motif that continues to crop up in work by Karin van Pinxteren. Since this motif resulted from a performance in 2000, it has begun to lead a life of its own. In her sculptures, the ellipse often functions as an opening. It constitutes a framework and gives the eye a focus. The oval-shaped opening can also offer a view to another space, or—as in her paintings—be the entrance to another dimension. In the architectonic installations—referred to as existential spaces—the light sources have an elliptical shape; in wall sculptures this is an abstraction of the human face.
Van Pinxteren explores her language of forms in an intuitive manner. It took two years for Court Dance II and a soft spot for a proposal (2009-2011) to assume its definitive form. Initially this wall sculpture consisted of seven white, perspectivally vanishing ellipses. Through the addition of a circle of soft carpet on the floor, the work acquired its sharpness. The red dot literally gives the visitor a place in the work, inviting him to participate in this court dance arranged by the artist.
‘I seek the greatest possible purity, a rendering that is completely crystallized,’ says Karin van Pinxteren about this process, in which she wishes to have the personal become anonymous and abstract in order to make room for the visitor. In the work In Correspondence with Anne, this chemistry between the artist and the viewer is expressed again with the lines ‘It’s mulled over dozens of times’ and ‘The surrounding voices change.’
The work is among the five segments of the series The Correspondents (2011-2012). For these five objects Van Pinxteren has made use of excerpts from correspondence with five other artists. Each object consists of two ellipses suspended in close proximity to each other; from them the excerpts emerge like rays of sun. In the beaming words of In Correspondence with Anne lies the gist of Court Dance II—and actually that of every intriguing work of art.
© Hanneke de Man, art historian, ‘Part of Someone’s Diorama’, Museum De Pont, February 2012, translation Beth O’Brien