Philip Akkerman: Lost and Ambulous
19 November 2011 – 4 February 2012
Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich
The Dutch painter Philip Akkerman encloses himself in a fascinating aura. Since the end of his art studies, Akkerman (born 1957), with few exceptions, has exclusively painted himself. And ever since, thousands of self-portraits have ensued. His own image he has, along the way, transformed—via various costumes, age situations, and different modifications to his physiognomy. Beyond these variations, he also alludes to the formal style of movements like Expressionism, Abstraction or Surrealism. His portraits take us on a stroll through art history.
In many aspects, the remarkable tenacity with which Akkerman spurs on his artistic labours also provides stimulus for a debate on painting. On the one hand, with his obstinacy he expounds what painting means to him—perhaps in general as well: namely a self-defined convention. To the artist, the presence of pictures, their presence in a room, represents an existential metaphor. Parallels can be drawn to icon painting, which grants the portrayed a presence. The theme of Akkerman’s work is interesting from another aspect. At the center of portrait painting the question remains as to how personal identity is to be construed. Especially in these times of digital image production, this question needs re-stating. Schooled poses and behavioural patterns are inscribed in our world of images as any glance at the global picture galleries on the Internet, Flickr or Facebook shows. Akkerman’s intense occupation with man’s image, which he reduces to his own person, is thus anything but anachronistic.
Galerie Bob van Orsouw is pleased to present a select work group of Philip Akkerman’s in the exhibition “Lost and Ambulous”. These works have never before been shown in such highly charged compactness and intensity. Instead of working out the portrait’s facial features in all their details, the artist magnifies their pictorial impact by partially painting over them. The brush applications are, in part, easily recognizable; the paint is sometimes applied impasto. As always, Akkerman’s eyes in the portrait are fastened on his opposite number. The direct face-to-face contact between the viewer and the portrayed artist, which is tangible behind the paint daubs and overpainting of the eyes, is intriguing. You can easily get lost in the almost hypnotic play between the gazes.
This loss of control is quite deliberate. In his exhibition title the painter speaks of “lost”, which implies the intimate moment when the two are absorbed in exchanging looks. On the other hand, the title hints at a playful ingredient with its use of the word “ambulous”. As the artist himself says: “’Ambulous’ has no meaning. It is something like a painting or a piece of music, meaning nothing, but existing because someone created it (me).” With this existential postulation, Akkerman highlights for us his artistic procedure of investigating one and the same motif in all its incisiveness and most manifold facets.
From the German by Jeanne Haunschild