Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Michael Raedecker-Gem Museum The Hague

Michael Raedecker – one of the most successful artists of his generation – presents a broad overview of his latest work at the GEM this summer. His complex, multi-layered paintings, which daringly combine the “high-status” medium of paint with the homelier medium of embroidery, are based on traditional genres like the still life and flower painting. Raedecker has shot to fame since 1999, winning international prizes and seeing his work included in renowned collections like Saatchi and Tate Modern.

Michael Raedecker began his artistic training by studying fashion at the Rietveld Academy. He then attended the Rijksacademie and received his MFA from the prestigious Goldsmith’s College in London. He gradually developed a highly distinctive style, raising eyebrows by his unusual combination of paint and thread. His disturbing pictures are characterised by the complete absence of any human presence and are inspired by the “good life” depicted in the American TV shows of his childhood. They are usually based on a photographic image, which Raedecker reduces to its essence. As he works on it, he reduces the lines and gradually leaves more and more to the viewer’s imagination.

For Raedecker, there is nothing self-evident about working in paint. Time and again he asks himself how, as an artist today, he can add anything to the history of painting or of art in general. His relationship with the contemporary world is also a major issue; how does he relate to society and what rationale is there being an artist in today’s world? The latter question became particularly pressing after 11 September 2001, when he was overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness. He felt out of place and decadent in the safety of his studio.

His pictures have gradually become more restrained and his palette subtler. therapy (2005), a still life showing the remains of a breakfast on a table, is typical of a phase in which Raedecker has gone in search of the essence of painting. Like his seventeenth-century predecessors, his aim is to impress the viewer with his virtuosity. In his latest work, his paintings are increasingly transparent, making the creative process still more immediately apparent.

Raedecker regards his flower paintings as the height of decadence. Like the still lifes of the Golden Age, they remind the viewer of beauty and transience, of seduction and death. However, the prissiness of flower arrangements and bits of embroidery is offset by confrontational, suggestive titles like pornography (2005) and penetration (2005), which give the paintings an entirely different frame of reference. The ambiguity applies to the handling of the paint as well as the content of the pictures; from a distance, the representation of flowers is clearly visible but closer up it disintegrates into abstract components exhibiting subtle differences of colour and texture.


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