Marc Nagtzaam / Mark Manders

11 May - 02 Jul 2016

Exhibition view: A Drawing Placed Between Two Objects
ProjecteSD, Barcelona, 2016
Photo: © Roberto Ruiz
A Drawing Placed Between Two Objects
11 May - 02 July 2016

The work of Dutch artist Marc Nagtzaam stands midway between the suggestion of spaces and perspectives born out of an interest for architecture, and the reflection over the formal properties of language more than over its expressive ones. Drawing is his medium of choice; his aim is organizing a picture plane that, in its apparently irretrievable austerity, is, nonetheless, equally hermetic and contingent. Nagtzaam’s practice, though, should not be reduced strictly to works on paper. In fact, they are but one symptom of the exhibition space’s proclivity towards a whole
encompassing experience, here articulated on a shared musicality. With a chromatic scale in which weightless shades of grey find their place between black and white spaces, a fluctuating group of lines and strips (depending on their variable density) populates the surface according to rhythmic permutations. In these works on paper we observe a sort of grid structure that organizes itself through combinatory processes. However, this is a ductile structure, not a strict or even a dogmatic one. As it should: the inalienable freedom with which the artist infuses his pencil can in no way be undermined by the idealized reticula. The opposite takes place, though, with narrative: taken from all sorts of publications, the language that often dominates his drawings is no more than a frustrated impulse, a jaded ready-made, in any case unfit for narrative.

At the same time, chance factors in the organization of language is one of the early interests of Mark Manders, also a Dutchman, although living in Ronse, a village thirty minutes outside Ghent, where he has his studio. His appearance in the midst of Marc Nagtzaam’s universe supposes a slight disruption, an interference of sorts that nevertheless enriches and amplifies the relation between language, images and forms. The two pieces on show by Manders have been carefully selected so as to slide into Nagtzaam’s territory in the context of an exhibition which title, A Drawing Placed Between Two Objects, also implies a sliding in of Nagtzaam into Manders’ universe. In Hallway with Sentences – a very telling but maybe not so well-known work by Manders – the artist selected and ordered alphabetically seventy words that, later on, and by way of a combinatory game, came to form several sentences.

As in Nagtzaam’s case, language functioned there not so much as a medium but as an end in itself. In many of those sentences, as, although in a broader sense, in most of Manders’ artworks’ titles (Landscape with the sound of a flag or A place where my thoughts are frozen together, for instance), we find straight connections with a certain idea of place – a place where architectures of thought rise, were it not all of Manders’ work a research on the processes of language formation and the ways in which it gets itself built and makes itself visible. We should not forget
that this artist’s first work, created when he was 18 years-old, is Self-portrait as a building: an architectural blueprint made of different kinds of writing tools, accordingly placed and directly set on the floor. From thereon, all his work has revolved around the same idea.

In the work of both these artists, language takes off, becoming perspective and colonizing the space. Taken together, Nagtzaam’s drawings here presented accentuate its more architectural side, sometimes using different overlapping levels of reading, like open windows in the picture plane (spaces inside spaces) or as shallow palimpsests. Manders responds to this state of things with two works of differing nature that, through the simplicity and the apparent ingenuity of its artifacts, signal language as a connecting element. This seems quite literal in the piece with the bone, where the newspaper sheet – a recurring material in Manders’ work – is the guarantor of movement; but it can also be found, although not in such a clear way, in that other blueish architectural piece that reveals a thought’s three-dimensional drift as well as the gradual configuration of the space that accommodates it. The place of thought, it seems. Or perhaps the thought itself turned place.

Tags: Mark Manders, Marc Nagtzaam