Frank Koolen

31 Jan - 01 Mar 2009

"The Tropical Years"

31 January until 1 March 2009
Opening: friday 30 January 21.00 pm

The entire world is full of meaning; we are constantly - and with dizzying success - busying ourselves with assigning things with their appropriate meaning. Art's monumental task is to create a perceptible object in which our almost boundless ability to designate meaning becomes defused. Like the chrome ball catapulted about a pinball machine, bouncing off gleaming targets, hurtling up ramps and through tunnels, relentlessly racking up points without ever discovering the peace and comfort of meaning, the viewer of an artwork is trapped in a state of observation. The longer the better. Because In art too, it's always about the points!
I first encountered the work of Frank Koolen at the exhibition of the Dutch Royal Award for Painting 2006. The piece in question was a small painting of a wooden door with a kind of hand-axe embedded in it and a scrap of blank paper nailed to the wood. I have to admit that anyone who paints a nail in a bit of wood is always in my good books, so I filled out the public award form, outlining why I chose Frank Koolen's painting, briefly referring to the nails of Philip Guston and Rene Daniels. I met Frank in person about a year later, when he told me that he only painted once and again. Which came as quite a shock for someone like me who has spent more or less twenty years attempting to paint. An odd experience, something along the lines of: Q: "Can you play the piano?" A: "I don't know, I've never tried". Frank Koolen makes films, interventions, paintings, sculptures, installations, performances, photos and writes short stories. My conviction that art can only emerge from a concentration on a single discipline, was turned upside down.
The Tropical Years is Frank Koolen's first retrospective. Like many artists of his generation and in his position, so far his work has almost only been seen in group exhibitions or in situations where a single piece was presented. He is, however, an artist whose oeuvre - despite the brilliance of the individual works - is definitive. For his solo in W139 Frank Koolen has produced a variety of new pieces including a car loaded with quivering plants, a remake of his student room and, commissioned by the Zuiderzeemuseum, a film about the adventures of the Bording brothers and their father who, in 1849, spent two weeks stranded on an ice floe in the former Zuiderzee. He will also take his brush to the murals created by his predecessors in W139. But, apart from all this, The Tropical Years is a voyage round the paintings, photos, films, sculptures and installations Koolen created over the last 7 years: the period in which he evolved from a fledgling artist with grand ambitions to one of the last Samurai of Dutch art.

Gijs Frieling

Tags: René Daniëls, Philip Guston