By David Ryan

Marja Bosma - Conservator moderne en hedendaagse kunst, Centraal Museum, Utrecht

Part of an interview with Twan Janssen
From ‘The Nature of Painting’

By Bert Steevenz
From Metropolis M, 2001

(Parts of an) interview
with Bert Steevenz
Out of ‘Early Monograph/Martijn Schuppers’

Mieke Bal
Out of ‘Early Monograph/Martijn Schuppers’

Wolf Guenter Thiel
Out of ‘Early Monograph/Martijn Schuppers’

Bert Jansen
From the ‘Holland-Schweiz 3:2/Zeitgenössische Malerei’ catalogue

Martijn Schuppers
Out of ‘Early Monograph/Martijn Schuppers’

Out of ‘Early Monograph: Martijn Schuppers/Paintings1994-2002’ (pp.4-8)
Cato Publishers, 2002 ISBN 90 80691216
(Parts of an) interview with Bert Steevenz.

BS (Bert Steevenz) - In your more recent paintings there appears, from a pure art of painting approach, a sort of fata morgana, an image referring to reality: a rock formation, a planet surface, a sponge. Did you become aware of the tradition of painting and it’s limits? Within the modernistic tradition, of which the fundamental art of painting is the absolute end, the flatness of the painting is considered important as part of the objective character of the painting: a painting is nothing more than a coat on canvas. Greenberg’s range of idea’s was hereby decisive. The intrigue of your work is that by using pure painting an illusion of depth is created. With the same means you undermine, as it were, the principle of modernism. Simultaneously there is a question of controversy. You want to make self-referential work, yet a certain image is created, however elusive.

MS (Martijn Schuppers) - Exactly. I challenge painting with the art of painting in order to break it open and to create something new. I used to look fundamentally at the art of painting. Paintings became doors, doors became paintings and so on. That had to stop. I developed a radical process in treating paint, which I moved over the canvas and let it concentrate somewhere else. I discovered that the result of these fundamental actions looks like a figurative image. By the illusionistic and photographic character you think you deal with something beyond the art of painting. Thereby you are confronted even more with painting. The images turn out just as flat as deep. In my eyes these are controversies about antiquated modernistic principles. In this sense I have brought all oppositions into line. I am an equalizer.

BS - Does the visibility of the physical treatment of painting fall within these controversies?

MS - At the beginning this was the case with my first monochrome paintings. The treatment was still literally visible, and not more. But I came to the conclusion that a good painting cannot be the result of a number of creative gestures. You would have to offer a new form of expression in exchange. I wanted to slide the ‘most’ analytic painting – the monochrome – and the ‘most’ expressive painting into each other.

I start from a monochrome. I use it now as an undercoat and basis in contrast to my earlier monochromes. In this sense I don’t paint monochromes. It is rather a reference to the monochrome tradition. The wild gesture you see in some of my recent paintings is a quasi-wild gesture. This ‘wild’ movement is not affixed to paint, but is aroused by the corrosion of the monochrome layer of paint with thinner. I neutralize the quasi-wild gesture once more by sweeping vertically and horizontally many times with a soft broom creating a grid of actions, which bring out the transport of the dissolved paint on the one hand and the other literally smoothing out all previous actions thereby producing a photographic image. It is the art of painting about painting over which I paint. In the first paintings that were created in this spirit I initially wanted to show this literal process of dissolving, even to illustrate the monochrome. The interaction with painting is for me literal, as in dissolving the paint as well figurative, as in dissolving the modernistic ideal. Since 2000 the grid treatment has been further enforced whereby the action, still visible in earlier paintings, disappears further and further to the background until it becomes illegible. This illegibility of the painter’s actions increases the photographic effect thereby wishing to banish the didactic character of process painting. In the treatment, painting may for me have lost its romantic origin. In the image, it returns intensified. Yet the creation of these paintings remains a physical matter.

BS - Many images are explicitly beautiful. A form of aesthetic is created that some may reject. Do you intentionally aspire to this aesthetic?

MS - No. I have always intended to make a good painting and not a beautiful painting. The beauty in my work can be compared to the color of a flower or a scent. For some it is a matter of seduction, for others a warning. Beauty is rather a drape behind which several meanings are hidden. Obviously I want my paintings not only to maintain themselves in the avalanche of today’s images, but also to stand out.