Esther Tielemans’ paintings plunge the viewer into uncertainty. That which is visible is not determinate. Are these landscapes? Though the foliage and plants constitute something resembling bouquets, it is impossible to describe them precisely, or to identify particular species. Their distinctiveness is formal: colours and surfaces, some matt, others shiny; the acrylic lacquers have been selectively treated with epoxy resin. Some planes are concave, others convex. Some profiles are "replicated" in a symmetry inspired by the Rorschach test. They stand out against zones of shadow, with the reflection of the glazed parts of the painting sometimes adding an ironic touch and an effect of disorientation. What is being sought is not so much an appearance of representation as a representation of appearance; and there is no exaggeration in saying that it is deceptive. The luxuriant vegetation is in reality a profusion of decorative motifs, and an evocation of an unsettling future epitomised by transgenic manipulations. What seems at first sight like a paradisiacal landscape is, in the end, nothing other than a painting-trap that plays on the seduction of colours and materials, the better to confound the viewer. But by bringing together such a large number of artificial elements, Tielemans has expanded the very concept of a landscape, culminating in installations of monumental dimensions such as the one she created at Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum on the invitation of Lily van der Stokker . She alludes to the imposing landscapes of North America (the deserts of Nevada and New Mexico), where the stainless "beauty" of nature can induce a disturbing state of solitude. The painting becomes a panorama. And she draws the viewer into a theatrical relationship to her work: some of the wood panels on which the paintings are done attain the dimensions of walls arranged in space on the human scale. The nexus with nature and the outer world is inverted in the conception of inner space. And there are some hints of an explanation for this. At the start of the present decade, a number of Tielemans’ paintings were materially incorporated into installations that also included diverse objects. They gradually became "object-paintings", on the frontier of "design", and the represented space no longer had anything more than a distant connection to the reality of a landscape. At present Esther Tielemans’ paintings, whatever their size, are wholly shorn of scale. They seem, in fact, to float in weightlessness. They are an exact reflection of a mental space whose deployment is only just beginning.
Lily van der Stokker invites Esther Tielemans , Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, NL
2 june - 1st march 2008
Paintings by Carla Klein, Antonietta Peeters & Esther Tielemans, Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam, NL
20 january - 6 april 2008