Coen Vunderink

2016

2015

2014

2013

Painting and sculpture are closely connected in Coen Vunderink’s studio practice. Sculptural works function as a motif in his paintings, while he takes a painterly approach to many of his sculptures. The impetus for this cross-pollination is Vunderink’s interest in the genesis, the creation of the work of art, and the interplay of forces that come into effect to enable this process. His recent paintings, created with spray paint, home in on the dualism between figure and ground, between monochrome and stereoscopy, in painted constellations that appear to vibrate gently. Text by Dominic van den Boogerd, 2011, Amsterdam.

 

The blessing of an empty paradise; reflecting on ‘Paradise#1’ (2015).
Coen Vunderink’s paradise seems to be unpopulated – empty, in this sense. We see palm trees, suggesting a geographical place, on earth. We are not there, but we could be. We could strive to be there – just as with every other place we know of.

But when thinking about ‘paradise’, we are not just reflecting on an ordinary place. The word ‘paradise’ has strong normative connotations. ‘Paradise’ is another word for a certain type of perfection. A paradise must be good, true and beautiful – otherwise it wouldn’t be a paradise. For the very same reason, inhabitants of a paradise are necessarily happy, beautiful and good.

In other words, ‘paradise’ is the golden standard of places. When you are not in paradise, you want to get as close as possible. You want to reach it. The idea of a paradise alone steers your wishes and your actions. And when you are in, you know that being kicked out of it is not a good thing. Matters will only get worse.

So, what should we think about the fact that Vunderink’s paradises are empty, that traces of human beings are entirely absent? One could argue that Vunderink’s view is pessimistic, but I would like to argue that this is not the case. An empty paradise is a blessing.

A paradise is a place where everyone feels fine. It’s always summer, living is easy. But would you really want to spend your life in such a place? Suppose, as a famous philosophical thought experiment goes, that you are offered to spend your life in a kind of dream machine, a capsule, and that this machine will manipulate your brain, causing an endless sleep and giving you a continuous flow of great sensations. Would you step into it?

If you think that being happy is the same as feeling happy, it would be perfectly rational to answer ‘yes’. But to put it in Nietzschean terms: what you would choose then is a life filled with pills: a pill for the day, a pill for the night, and, when it all comes to an end, an extra pill for the moment of your death. Easy living.

We humans are ‘the most chronically and profoundly sick of all sick animals’, Nietzsche wrote. We are indeterminate beings, not capable on acting upon impulses alone, as healthy animals do. Rationality, our capacity to think, to determine what we should do, the instance by which we can regulate our impulses – it is not a characteristic that makes humans special and valuable, as the we often tend to think.

 

On the contrary, it is a major source of our suffering, as Nietzsche’s philosophical predecessor, Arthur Schopenhauer, already argued. Because we are rational, and because we have to shape ourselves, we are not capable of living in the moment. We live in different simultaneous worlds at the same time; we are continuously considering possible scenarios of our projects and our lives. Our daily business is making plans, identifying and anticipating problems, dangers, and treats, and we are constantly re-evaluating our options and possibilities. We have to, because we are sick.

And by means of our rationality, we are also able to discover that we are the sickest of all animals. That knowledge is almost unbearable. We need the idea of a paradise, in order to be able to cling to the idea that our world is (was, will be) just, good, right, and beautiful. Maybe not always. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe not to its fullest potential. But some grains (or even the promise of some grains) of truth, beauty and goodness are better than nothing.

So, ‘paradise’ is not only a physical place, something out there – the idea of ‘paradise’, of perfection, is in our minds, in the way we look at ourselves, and look at the world. It shapes the way we act and react. It indicates for us the direction we should be heading for. It helps sick animals to survive. For Descartes, this idea of perfection that is in our minds, could function as a proof of the existence of God. If we look around us, we see all kinds of things in all kinds of qualities. But we don’t see perfection – only imperfections. The only way we can know of perfection, of paradise, Descartes argues, is thus by an act of God, the most perfect, true, good and beautiful One. God is good, and that’s the reason He let us know something we cannot know by ourselves. But for us, human beings living after the death of God, it becomes increasingly difficult to see perfection as something unconditionally positive. True, we act - and when we act, we implicitly assume that we will improve something. If we won’t think that our actions will not better our situation, we would not act at all. So there is an idea of perfection working on the background, an idea of paradise, an idea about what is valuable and what is worth striving for. But at the same time, we know that many of he goals we set, are just expressions of our preferences, nothing more. Our goals change when we grow older, when we reflect more, and sometimes everything we do just seems futile. And when we are committing ourselves to what we do, when we are striving hard to realize an ideal, we often become convulsive, blind, one-sided, caged… or worse. A relation, or a society, based on a too rigid idea of perfection, all too often ends up in the use of violence. So… the idea of a paradise is a difficult one for us. Possible dangerous, even. But we probably can’t live without it. It might be the best strategy to blend commitment with mild irony. We should cherish our ideals, but always keep in mind that they are just all to human – and that we should not make the mistake to think that our ideals are fixed, ‘objective’, that our paradise is external to us and God-given. In this sense, it’s a good thing that those paradises of Vunderink are empty, not reached or populated by humans yet, and that they are sometimes a bit unsettling to look at. Text by Menno de Bree info@mennodebree.nl | www.mennodebree.nl

EDUCATION
2011
De Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2007
BA Painting, Academie Minerva, Groningen, The Netherlands

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2015
Paradise, Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2014
Coen Vunderink at Bur0 Gr0ningen, NP3, Groningen, The Netherlands

2013
It’s not a house, it’s a home!, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2008
Room with a view, Galerie Sign, Groningen, The Netherlands

GROUP EXHIBITIONS (selection)
2015
Glasgrün, Kunstverein Mischpoke e.V., Mönchengladbach, Germany
If Only I was More Like You, Judith Kisner and Coen Vunderink, Raum Linksrechts, Hamburg, Germany
PS Projectspace, with Matthew Allen and Harry Markusse, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The fantastic expedition of painting #2, K09 & La Kaserna, Bad Nieuweschans

2014
There is no I, W139, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
NULVIJFTIG-1, De Kelder bij Vrijdag, Groningen, The Netherlands
Biotoop, Centrum Beeldende Kunst, Groningen, The Netherlands
Pop-Up Art Store #1, DK, Groningen, The Netherlands

2013
Koninklijke Prijs Voor Vrije Schilderkunst, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Art Rotterdam, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, The Netherlands
Prospects an Concepts, Mondriaan Fonds, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Rearranging Reality, Galerie Sign, Groningen, The Netherlands

2012
Everything’s alright forever, Paradise Row Gallery, Londen, United Kingdom
Koninklijke Prijs Voor Vrije Schilderkunst, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Art Rotterdam, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, The Netherlands
CONCREET, Pretty Vacant Projects, Groningen, The Netherlands
Salon WEP, Stichting WEP, Groningen

2011
Summershow, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Psychopmp Counsel, Offspring, De Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2010
Vlammenstad, CBK Zeeland, Middelburg, The Netherlands

2009
Tien gezichten van de werkelijkheid, Galerie 14-16, De Koog, Texel, The Netherlands

2008
Nieuwe Uitleenschatten in de Der Aa Kerk, CBK/SBK Amsterdam, Groningen, The Netherlands
Lentesalon, Kunstlievend genootschap Pictura, Groningen, The Netherlands

2007
Koninklijke Prijs Voor Vrije Schilderkunst, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands

 

 

PRIZES
Koninklijke Prijs Voor Vrije Schilderkunst nominations in 2007, 2012 en 2013

STIPENDIUM
2011
Starterstipendium, Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

PUBLICATIONS
2014
De Grote Amsterdamse Kunstkalender, Trichis Publisching, Rotterdam
Dagblad v/h Noorden, Pop-Up Art Store, recensie
Jaarverslag Mondriaanfonds 2013, Amsterdam

2013
Prospects and Concepts, Catalogus, Mondriaanfonds, Amsterdam

2012
Aestheticamagazine, Review Everything’s alright forever, Paradise Row Gallery, London

2011
Psychopomp Counsel, Catalogus, De Ateliers, Amsterdam
Volkskrant, recensie Psychopomp Counsel, Sacha Bronwasser
NRC, recensie Psychopomp Counsel, Lucette ter Borg

2009
Internetpublicatie, www.hollandartavenue.nl, “Uitgelicht”

2008
Tableau Fine Arts Magazine, Dec 08, Select Galerie 14-16
Tubelight 57, Tube’s Choice, Room with a view, Galerie Sign

2007
Volkskrant, Meer bindmiddel dan pigment, Rutger Pontzen
Telegraaf, Jongleren met verf en vormen, Paola van der Velde
Dagblad v/h Noorden, 122 jonge honden kunnen niet wachten, Isabella van Werkhoven

MEDIA
2014
RTL4, Mijn Stad, aflevering Groningen

2013
ArtMen, 28 april, aflevering Groningen
Avro Kunstuur, 16 februari, Hester Alberdingk Thijm koopt een schilderij van Coen Vunderink uit de tentoonstelling Prospects and Concepts.
Avro Kunstuur, 26 januari, Jonge kunstenaars en verzamelaars