[imagebrowser id=97] Mike Weiss Gallery presents Bruised and Battered by Dutch artist Piet van den Boog. For his third solo show at the gallery, van den Boog pushes the limits of portraiture by directly confronting emotion head-on by way of large-scale paintings of faces. Oil and acrylic paint make up the flesh tones and fine facial details while abstract strokes in rust tones, cerulean blues and greens are chemically etched into the cold lead surfaces becoming a powerful metaphor for the internal scars we all possess.
The imposing portraits depicted in the paintings, some as tall as 6 feet, are truncated from the body, consequently becoming nostalgic monumental ruins of a lost time. Akin to the brutal candor seen in the portraits of Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud, they surpass their own representation and acquire a bold, autonomous presence because of their distorted nature. They are not meant to remind the viewers of a specific person, but rather, they become an emblematic entity in and of themselves. The works’ transcendence as universal symbols of emotionally charged memories is further reinforced in van den Boog’s choice of titles, many culled from song lyrics and poems. In the painting If there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man, a line from a Tom Waits song, a male figure appears to hover above the viewer, who unexpectedly finds themselves thrust into an undermined position, as if knocked down in a battle. The title does not identify the individual portrayed but a perspective on humanity. The face looks back at the viewer with the haunting insistence of an unshakeable memory and the etching pain of heartache.
A modern day Alchemist, van den Boog experiments with base metals like lead, copper and steel as a visual allegory of personal transmutation, and a quest for an emotional panacea – that cure-all for the human soul. It is van den Boog’s technical process which ultimately imbues the portraits with relatable human qualities. His masterful application of paint is calculated and controlled, while areas of exposed metal are worn and weathered by acids and other oxidizing chemicals in a process left mostly to chance. This element of technical surrender alludes to the unforeseen consequences of intimacy and the perpetual co-existence of pain and pleasure. Remember, remember, this is now, and now and now, quoted from the journal of tortured poet Sylvia Plath, is one of two self-portraits in the show. Piet’s guarded gaze presents a balanced juxtaposition of emotional fragility and inner strength and resilience, both of which delineate the parameters of human emotion. Van den Boog reminds the viewer of the uncontrollability of life’s forces, with all of their sheer prowess and unpredictability, and the undeniable beauty of the present moment.
Piet van den Boog (b.1951) currently lives and works in Amsterdam. His work is in many important international museums and collections, most notably, the Drents Museum, Assen, Netherlands; Scheringa voor Realisme Collection, Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation, Jersey City, New Jersey; the Art Collection of Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Den Haag, Netherlands; ING Art Collection, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and the Miniature Museum, Gemeente Museum Den Haag, Netherlands.
Article and interview by: Vincent Zambrano