Beeldbrug episode 9: Igor Lenting and Eva Michiels

Igor Lenting (1996) mainly produces paintings. The painting The End (2019) is part of his series of swimming pools with blue skies. With this series he wants to capture the zeitgeist of the twenty-first century. He does this by depicting the dream vacation of the average citizen: a swimming pool in the sun, often surrounded by plastic sunbeds. Lenting finds it fascinating that many people work from 9.00 until 17.00 year round to work towards such a vacation.

He works fast, often coming up with his compositions on the spot and thus uses acrylic paint, which dries quickly. This material is well suited to depict the sunlit swimming pools as smooth opaque color planes with razor sharp contours. For this, Lenting uses big brushes and sometimes also utilises paint rollers. By painting in one direction, the planes become very smooth, which almost conceals the fact that the planes consist of paint. Only when you take a closer look at the work, you will see that it is painted; the top edge of the pink wall, for example, betrays that. The sharp contours are obtained by using tape. Over the years Lenting has used just about every kind of tape on the market. Eventually he found his two favorite tapes in a specialty paint store in his neighborhood and one in a hardware store.

The subject choice, the style of painting and the use of material are immediately reminiscent of A Bigger Splash (1967) and other works by David Hockney (1937). Just like Hockney got inspired by the sunny climate of California in 1963, Lenting fell under the spell of the sunlight and shadows in Croatia, where he spent every summer of his life. The American light artist James Turrell (1943) also found his inspiration in light. He creates enchanting light installations with artificial and natural light, in which the perception of light, color and space are playing an essential role. [1] He manipulates the perception of the spectator by, among other ways, hiding the source. Turrell’s Open Field (2000) is a part of his series Ganzfelds. [2] ‘Ganzfeld’ is a German word that is used to describe the phenomenon of the total loss of depth perception. Turrell creates a similar kind of experience with Open Field. A few years ago, when I saw this work for the first time, I thought that I was looking at a two dimensional projection screen with stairs in front of it. The museum warden pointed at the stairs and I then carefully walked the stairs. If you are familiar with the work of Turrell, it will not surprise you that the blue surface turned out to be a hole in the wall with an illuminated space behind it, which I could enter. The spacial effects of the light made me doubt my own perception; the blue space seemed to be limitless.

The End is also a game of perception which makes you aware of the discrepancy between perception and reality. Some shadows give a spacial feeling, but the painting actually exists of just flat color planes in simple geometrical shapes. Lenting plays with the conception of what is a plane and what is an object. The blue plane that depicts the sea seems endless, just like the blue space of Open Field. This infinity, in combination with the minimalist completion of emptiness, exudes so much tranquility that these works make time stand still. When you look at these works, you are forced to exchange the reality for illusion for just a short amount of time.

Written by Eva Michiels

[1] Turrell has designed two very special swimming pools: Heavy Water (1992) and Baker Pool (2002-2008).

[2] Three works of Turrell, such as Open Field, belong to the fixed collection of the Chchu Art Museum that is located on the Japanese art island Naoshima. The museam is designed by the Japanese star architecht Tadao Ando.