Surely, it is to be hoped for that this exhibition will end not even half as catastrophic as Goethe’s Elective Affinities.
It must be said though that many in this sheer infinite abundance of drawings by Paul Klemann (1960) and Cedric ter Bals (1990) at Galerie Maurits van de Laar are quite inauspicious. Perhaps that is less so for Klemann’s drawings with their surrealist scenes, although you never know in surrealism.
There is always a double entendre and objects and situations in these drawings may not always be what you would wish for. The sweetest desires may turn out to be as hot as a Madame Jeanette pepper.
In Ter Bals’s drawings it is more a matter of re-living a catastrophe, in particular World War I. That catastrophe was indeed death ridden to the utmost.
Millions of soldiers died quite for nothing and military heroism became not much more than a mockery (as it so often is).
In Ter Bals’s work it is both mockery and seriousness, well, they are not even two sides of one coin, they are both sides in one.
Apart from a plethora of drawings – varying from monumental to small and cartoonlike – he also shows pages of the sequel to his 2019 comic book Tagebuch Oskar von Balz (Oskar von Balz’s Diary), about which i wrote quite extensively in Villa La Repubblica (in Dutch; click here).
The elective affinity between the two artists is that Ter Bals saw work by Klemann and immediately saw a kindred spirit in him.
Such that he wanted to be coached by Klemann, who has of course an artistic experience of quite a few decades, in which Ter Bals succeeded with the help of the Mondriaan Fund.
There are indeed similarities between the works of the two artists in spite of the generation gap.
Both artists are uncompromising in what their unbridled imagination forces them to draw. One could describe it as an amoral stance towards imagination.
However, that is one thing, another is that the imagination has to be presented on a piece of paper with pencils etc.
So, the imagination, unbridled and amoral as it is, has to be moulded such that it has a maximum impact on the viewer. Both are masters in doing so. But indeed a younger artist always needs support in it.
There are however great differences as well. For instance Klemann uses space in quite another way than Ter Bals does.
Klemann’s space is usually quite well defined although it is also elastic like in a dream, while in Ter Bals space can be quite flat or non-existent if there is no need for it.
Also Ter Bals usually has well defined personalities who tell part of the same story if you see more of his works. His works can stand on their own, but become more meaningful in the context of the rest of his work.
That even counts for his more monumental drawings which try to be so comprehensive. A lot more could be said about the works of both artists, but i leave that to others for the time being.
If you have no ability to put things into perspective, or if you have no sense of humour, this show may be a challenge which i heartily recommend to you.
But even if you are less disabled you should take enough time to see everything in this exceptionally full exhibition. Enjoy, and be moved and astonished!
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© Villa Next Door 2022
Contents of all photographs courtesy to Paul Klemann, Cedric ter Bals and Galerie Maurits van de Laar, Den Haag
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