Not Here, Museum De Pont, 2008


Not Here, De Pont, Museum for contemporary art, Tilburg, Nl. 2008

In the project space Carina Diepens (Geldrop, 1958) is showing four sculptures in combination with a series of watercolors and one video work. Both the watercolors on the wall and the sculptures on the floor have been carried out in many gradations of blue. Also shared by them is an organic language of forms that gives rise to associations with the human figure. While the works on paper have come about in quick fluid movements, the spatial forms are the result of a slow and laborious process: they consist of many hundreds of knots in narrow strips of cloth. The various shades of blue and the seams, still visible here and there in the cloth, recall a previous life: these knotted forms were made from discarded work clothing, cut into strips. The sculptures that Diepens has been producing for the past two years are a logical sequel to her performances and her photographic and video work. In her performances, models appear as ‘living sculptures’ in meticulously staged surroundings. They show no emotion and are withdrawn or completely absorbed in a repetitive act. Their alienating expressionlessness heightens the expressive content of the surrounding objects: buckets filled with clay, a pane of glass with an opening in it, a shiny helmet, a heap of butter and articles of clothing. Diepens produced her first living sculpture in 1996, during an exhibition at the Fabriek in Eindhoven. Lying on a table in the space was a formless dummy dressed in a blue overall. The fact that someone – the artist herself – was hidden inside this could hardly be seen. Many layers of overalls that she had put on gave her a ‘thick skin’, which hindered her movement to such an extent that it made her only more vulnerable. The video work produced two years later, now on view at De Pont, shows a woman sitting in a bathtub in a sunlit garden. Here again, the deep-blue water envelops the body like a second skin, and the image evokes a sense of alienation. The water is much too blue to be colored only by the reflection of the sky, the bath too small for the body of a grown woman.Cloth is a material that surrounds human beings from the moment of birth; it literally binds us. For that reason, it lends itself to expressing matters related to the human condition, which is a central focus in the work of Carina Diepens. In 1999 she used the contents of her wardrobe to produce the first knotted form and thereby gave shape to her own history. These overall-clad figures, ever recurrent in her living sculptures and in related photographic works, place their heads in knotted work clothes. As completely anonymous beings, they have turned away from us and lean against the wall; each head is stuffed into a ball of work clothing. ‘Life is fairly absurd, when you consider how much time you spend on the same repetitive acts of labor and all those other daily activities,’ says Diepens. That incongruity, that absurdity comes across in a brutal manner in the images that she presents. In the living sculptures the models continue to carry out the same actions: the woman in a burlap suit, for instance, picks apart a piece of burlap thread by thread. But that nearly obsessive, repetitive action also lies at the heart of Naamloos (Nameless), the sculptures now being shown at De Pont. Having taken shape from the repeated act of making knots, these resilient yet vulnerable figures have found a form of their own on the floor.The living sculptures of Carina Diepens will be on view during the opening of the exhibition. After that they will be shown on four Sunday afternoons: March 16 and 30, and April 13 and 27.