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BUG 2 Gallery (TW)

‘I am preparing the frame, setting the action and stating the end.
 My works are about controlling the paradigms of color and form’.

Rob Bouwman’s (b. 1981) most recent body of work consists of  translucent oil-based colours on wood panels.
While contemporary painting often remains beholden to the Postmodern by reproducing the fragmentary or the unfinished, his works shows that the artist’s process does not stop by achieving an arbitrary endpoint. In “Untitled, p012017”, glooming colour strands stretch over the panel forming tunnel-like configurations, as if the artist  captured a certain glimpse of discrete colour already in existence, floating  throughout the universe. These images create tension between atmospheric impressions of light and spatial illusion produced exclusively by means of the material nature of translucent colours on a bright surface.

Today, it seems the relation between representation and reality has  become ambiguous through the use of digital images for data mining and information extraction in order to employ human affect.  Images are now needed which do not require anything beyond being looked at. Now, when the temporality of images is ephemeral and exchangeable with a simple click, paintings are demanded which offer another concept of temporality, a concept of being and duration. A concept that Bouwman is proposing with his work and his art practice


A massive transition has taken place from his earlier black and white paintings towards a spectacle of bright and lucent colours. While his achromatic works demonstrate that the penetration of negative space and geometry already played a major role in his oeuvre, the addition of colours has  expanded the complexity of his paintings. Here, the viewer’s gaze is pulled into the spatial depth of colourful tubular tunnels. Even if one may say of Bouwman’s new paintings that they do not  becomes more abstract, there is a certain visual effect which establishes his affinity towards photography, and  through that an affinity towards pictures from the world. The illusion of space marks a tension between distance and proximity that becomes aesthetically more reminiscent of pictorial photography from the late 19th century and photorealism, than to contemporary abstract painting. 

In this regard it is not astonishing that Bouwman’s first artistic medium was photography. As soon as he was  directed by his instructors during his bachelors degree to continue photography he sensed indifference towards the medium. Bouwman’s artistic practice is about pushing the boundaries of a chosen medium. When he feels that certain processes of production  become repetitive, the time has come to change the framework. It was at this time he quit photography in order to begin painting. Bouwman’s art practice is about trial and error until he senses control over the physical and material facts of the medium he is working with; a working method he followed during his studies at Hunter College New York and the Frank Mohr Institute.
At a certain point  the premises of black and white on panel seemed exhausted and  Bouwman felt the need to amplify the physical parameters of his paintings by employing colour.

The major attributes of Bouwman’s recent works are a preparation of the frame, setting of the action and  defining an endpoint. His works are about controlling the paradigms of colour and form. The sensitively nuanced colour-formations reveal a contemporary abstract painter who is renegotiating the idea of the sublime instead of recapitulating obsolete concepts of the unfinished.

Text: Teresa Retzer -  Arthistorian / writer / curator ZKM museum Karlsruhe 2019.