5 Sep 2009
10 Oct 2009

Perfect - perfect men, women - husbands and wives - sons and daughters - perfect families with the perfect dog. Marijn Akkermans makes drawings of these; rich, dense ink drawings - with exquisite detail and optical punch - showcasing an astute craft, focus and understanding of his medium. The content, mood and character of Akkermans' work is far from perfect - unraveling the despair and darkness at the heart of what should be perfect, ordinary lives. The title of the exhibition refers to our futures - the course of our lives - often being pre-determined...that the future is often not new and unknown; rather our upbringing, our families and the environments that we are born into, stay with us and shape our lives. The past casts a long shadow - one that, try as we might, we never entirely escape.


Marijn Akkermans - Zonder titel, 2009 inkt en gouache op papier 72 x 58,5 cm

Akkermans presents scenes of normalcy, conventional families and propriety. What should be positive and harmless motifs - motherhood, children, pets - are translated by Akkermans into devious and malevolent characters. A freakish and suffocating spirit has infested the tradition, stability and protection of these ingredients. The artist is exploring the confinements of the bourgeois, presenting the damage and hurt inflicted and shared within these familiar settings. Whereas an artist like Alex Katz has presented white, middle-class, heterosexual characters in a cool, distanced way, Akkermans brings a personal and psychologically pitched take on these subjects.

There are different strands to his oeuvre that Akkermans assembles in this show. There are large-scale, narrative drawings of figures in entangled, grotesquely charged scenarios. Dark-Hearted Superhero portrays a businessman in a dynamic pose - with a child's upturned face bulging from his shirt. His face is a dark hole, the features only mildly apparent - this creating a brash contrast against his whiter-than-white shirt.

In a new series, Akkermans has reproduced the same portrait over and over. It is of the head of a middle-aged man whose bouffant hair and thick moustache evoke a 70's TV actor. The repetition elevates this imaginary figure, affording him significance - especially as Akkermans opts for drawing instead of a mechanical means of reproduction. His unwavering control of the medium is exhibited not just in the fact that these faces are virtually identical but that each is invested with the same focus and attention to detail that marks all his work. United, the effect of the portraits is eerie, hysterical and perplexing.

Akkermans has also made a number of portraits of imagined characters whose eyes or mouths have been subsequently blocked. It is a harsh and brutal intervention. An act by the artist which blinds or silences the subject and upsets the viewer's reading of the work. These otherwise resolved drawings, are crudely modified via the black masks and any illusion of depth is purposefully eliminated by these flat fields that sit jarringly over the sensitively-handled drawing.

Akkermans frequently takes unexpected actions with his drawings like these masks. He also uses strange 3D additions, which are at once elegant and illusionary and abrupt and intervening. In Harriet, a portrait of a woman has been rolled up from the bottom of the sheet of paper. It hangs on the wall with the lower part of her face now removed and filled in as a black silhouette painted to the wall. Akkermans considers these actions as efforts to contaminate the beauty. Throughout his work, Akkermans battles against beauty; against perfection, normalcy, satisfaction in the lives that he represents and the drawings that he makes. His technique has never been more sophisticated - the drawings seductive and intelligent, carrying a delicious movement and balance in their compositions and layering of blacks and greys. Akkermans sculpts the solid bodies out of the white of the paper with a dazzlingly adroit confidence. And a tension derives from this capability - the end-point he reaches is invariably unsettling as these dissolute, inscrutable characters have been so beautiful, lovingly portrayed by the artist.

The Future Is Old will be Marijn Akkermans' second solo show at Galerie Gabriel Rolt.