World Without End review - Art Papers USA 2010
The following review of Hans de Wit's exhibition World Without End (Isis Gallery, London January 9 – February 20, 2010) by Amelia Ishmael appears in Art Papers USA (2010).
Cicaden (2006), Pastel and charcoal on paper, 148cm x 260cm
Despite all of the apocalyptic gossip that builds up at the end of each decade, Hans de Wit’s debut in the UK, World Without End, suggests that the world will keep evolving – though its form will not always be completely recognizable, and human fate is not guaranteed (Isis Gallery; January 9 – February 20, 2010). Through two series of charcoal and pastel works on paper, he illustrates a vast, mystic dystopia that stylistically marries the biochemical organisms of H.R. Giger with the magnificent landscapes of J.M.W. Turner.
Vigorously gestural charcoal marks swarm across each work atop spectral fields of pastel colour to create scenes that are aesthetically sublime, romantic, and expressionistic. Meticulous details invite us to step closer and observe the works from an intimate distance. As we stand in front of the four Arcanum Arcadia, 2009 panoramic works on paper-which span over eight feet wide- an epic scene that hovers between futuristic and primal, arcadian and apocalyptic, fills our field of vision. The series’ title is historical and mythical, suggesting that these drawings are concerned with expressing knowledge of a fantastical place that is concealed from our current reality.
Although de Wit’s works maintain an ambiguity, many of the titles in this series refer to allegorical stories. Ahab, 2009, displayed on the ground floor, gives a literary reference to Moby-Dick and the fate of Captain Ahab of the ship Pequod, who is driven to his own death by his hubristic revenge against the infamous great white whale. De Wit’s Ahab depicts a recumbent dismembered human figure atop a a large beached gonadic form that has been punctured with a multitude of dark harpoons. Littered in the surrounding shallow waters are eggs and fallen birds. In the background. a dramatic dark cloud unfurls across the vivid pastel landscape. As a single scene from the grand dystopia that de Wit illustrates, Ahab is an exemplary account of caution.
Also on display are three smaller works from the artist’s Pencil Poems series. Though no less impressive than Arcanum Arcadia, these drawings are devoid of narrative references and convey ambient scenes of a more experimental nature. Pencil Poem #6, 2009, an exceptionally surreal work, appears set at an ocean seabed. Here, a large dark form in the drawing’s upper portion suggests an ocean vessel. Sprouting across the floor, among indistinguishable shells or debris, bizarre life forms feature various bird heads atop curvaceous plant stems.
In each of the seven works on display, the paper’s entire surface is screened with tiny pastel marks that create a subtle grid. These marks give the drawings a documentary quality as they allude to de Wit’s intensive working process of transferring and enlarging images from preliminary sketches to the finished works.
The enigmatic scenes illustrated throughout World Without End follow the modernist artistic tradition of grappling with anxieties about the coexistence of humanity, rapture and technology. Organic aspects of de Wit’s works are foreign rather than alien; they are a testament to the evolution of technology as it merges with and transforms biology. At times, these engineered organisms appear better suited to thrive, yet to what ends? De Wit, based in Eindhoven, has exhibited widely throughout the Netherlands, yet rarely abroad. In his previous exhibitions, images including architectural fragments optimistically suggested human inhabitants. Here, as both living human forms and their dwellings are absent, the fate of civilization becomes dubitable.
Amelia Ishmael, 2010