2011 Essay


(Published in: Karlyn De Jongh & Sarah Gold, PERSONAL STRUCTURES: La Biennale di Venezia 2011. Exhibition Catalogue for PERSONAL STRUCTURES, part of the Venice Biennale, at Palazzo Bembo in Venice, 2011)

Rene Rietmeyer (*1957, Netherlands) creates abstract, three-­dimensional wall objects, which he calls “Boxes”. These Boxes address his own, personal existence within time and space. For many years, ­Rietmeyer has been mainly concerned with the subjects Time - Space and Existence. His work is about expressing his existence, about ­living out the consequences of his thoughts, about living a ­conscious life, and creating an awareness about this in others. 

In his work, Rietmeyer focuses on his own personal life, his own ­existence, and is unapologetically straightforward about this: “My objects become what they become. Always. They do not aim to be ”beautiful” or “ugly”. Each Box I make is a honest result of me, a ­reflection of my existence, of me at that moment in time and space, an object from that specific time in my life.” Although being concerned with several topics at the same time, Rietmeyer states: ­“Ultimately, my work is nothing other than the proof of my existence.”

Rietmeyer’s Boxes contain his thoughts and express his experiences of a certain region or, as with his Portrait of JK and Rome 2010, a specific person he met at a particular place and time. They address serious topics, without denying the artist’s emotional relationship to his surroundings. These emotions are expressed through the abstract means of a.o. form, color, texture, composition, and choice of materials. Portrait of JK and Rome 2010, for example, comprises a bold statement with an initial vibrant red surface color that is ­covered with a thick, strong white. According to Rietmeyer, this type of portraiture is not so radically different from the paintings of Van Gogh or Nicolas de Stael. Only abstract language itself has developed through time. 

The artist considers each Box, each work, as a unique moment of his autobiography, an experience of a specific moment in time and space captured, made visible, preserved. The Boxes reflect an ­accumulation of impressions of a specific time and location—­influenced by many other factors, such as whether it was hot or cold, his own physical state, if he could afford bad or good quality ­materials, etc. The Boxes are a combination of predetermined choices and the ­situation during the actual making of the work. 

Besides these particular moments in his life, Rietmeyer concentrates on the passing of his lifetime. This tension between moment and passage brings with it an awareness of how short life actually is. He described this awareness as we were standing together in front of the house of the American artist Robert Rauschenberg in Captiva Florida, USA, in 2008, just a few days after his death: “An intense ­consciousness about Time, Space and Existence puts your own ­existence in a larger perspective, shows you how small you are, makes you realize the importance and beauty of being alive and makes you aware and accept the ‘finalness’ of death.” ­Rietmeyer related how Rauschenberg once told him something that had left a deep impression: when Rauschenberg was younger, he had believed that there was not enough world for him to discover. During his ­conversation with Rietmeyer and conscious of the fact that he would soon die, Rauschenberg admitted: “I am running out of time.” ­Rietmeyer adds: “Time itself does not stop. We just cease to exist.” The Boxes will remain much longer.