René Korten

Diver's Eye

30 June - 2 Sept 2012

The exhibition in the project space is dedicated to recent paintings by René Korten (Horn, 1957). Korten made his debut with formal paintings during the early 1980s. From 2001 to 2007 the emphasis lay with collaboration and with installations and projects carried out at specific locations. For the past several years he has been concentrating entirely on painting again, producing works in which the image is determined by the sensory and associative strength of forms and colors, of materials and the application of paint.

A great deal goes on in Korten's paintings. In Fall from Grace (2011) the highly diluted acrylic has found its own way across the surface. Sometimes the pigment has accumulated; other times it is the stratification of color that strikes the eye. Two oval shapes in white and light beige offer resistance to the veil-like movement of green and purple. The more striking of these is a white, meandering outline which stands out like a foreign body against the transparent, spatial quality of the veils of color.

Korten seeks a juxtaposition of diverse, often antithetical visual elements. They defy each other, question and approach each other, but never appease each other. Action and reaction, immediacy and reflection continually alternate in his way of working. While allowing the fluid paint to 'go its own way' in one phase, he resumes control of it in the next and experiments extensively with the placement of graphic lines and wavy contours. The qualities of the material are also put to use in this play of dualities. Korten paints on MDF boards that he has prepared with a layer of gesso. Some boards are only partially covered with this chalky layer. On the unprepared areas, the paint is absorbed into the MDF; the subdued pastel hues become more matte and dark than when painted on areas prepared with gesso. Layer by layer, therefore, the painting writes its own history. At times this may reach back to a previous existence, as can be seen with the two panels Valid Invalid (2011) which previously, in a different form, were part of an installation. Two rows of painted-over stickers still attest to this.

In Korten's recent paintings, a meandering line consisting of a strand of circles keeps on surfacing as a visual element. This motif gives rise, in Valid Invalid, to associations with a torso as well as with a bull's head. Turquoise areas of color and the mysterious little white lines resist all-too-easy conclusions however. Although the paintings evoke all sorts of associations - just as the distinct association with landscape emerges in the work Sameness (2011) - the image eludes any conclusive interpretation.

The two facets that Korten wants to bring together in his paintings - the formal and the organic, the constructed and the spontaneous, form and color, the concrete and the associative - can be reduced to the polarity nature/culture. We often treat these as opposites, but can a sharp dividing line actually be drawn between the two? Isn't the point at which they meet and overlap more interesting? Korten is fascinated with that diffuse area. Not until the painting rises above itself and relates, in its ambiguity and complexity, to an equally intangible reality, has it truly earned its right to exist. It is a metamorphosis toward which Korten works, yet that magic moment can never be predicted. It happens.

website of the artist