Une histoire naturelle – Marieke Wiegel

In the exhibition and the publication A Natural History - a title inspired by his visits to the Musée national d’Histoire Naturelle - the public is offered a survey of his output from the last twelve years, including A Personal Geographic/The Acts of Mercy, Visiting Versaille et les Trianons, Cut out and his most recent work, Bird needs shelter.  Wilmering worked on this last project over a period of one year in the Holsboer studio in the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Wilmering’s œuvre comprises installations, collages, photography, drawings and paintings. He also produces numerous artists’ books. In his work, he continually investigates, not without humour, his position as person and as artist. The mirror-effect between the artist and his public is an important element in his work. In his collages, he takes his images out of context in the same way as he repeatedly takes himself as artist out of the context of general artistic practice.

Photography is a recurring element within his different series. His self-portraits show the artist in everyday situations that, through their very banality, acquire a tragicomic and sometimes sour quality. Photographic works like True believer (2001) or Our hopes are conserved in our dreams (2003) are easily recognizable works that without posing direct questions still set the viewer thinking about his own everyday reality. 

His photography, his various collage series, paintings, installations, multiples and books are all born of his feeling that reality consists of “pretty aimless chains of coincidences and absurd situations, in which it’s easy to lose your way”. His works are constructed from pseudo-events, stories that run parallel to the reality in which he has made sudden shifts and enlargements.

As a starting point for the series Visiting Versailles et les Trianons (2008-2009), Luuk Wilmering has used a deluxe tourist guide dating from 1905, illustrated with coloured-in black and white photographs of Versailles and les Trianons. Seeking a contrast with this palace, which in a sense is synonymous with decadence, he has combined the sugary coloured-in pictures from the guide with black and white photographs from the catalogues of World Press Photo. The tourist guide photographs serve as background to details cut out of the black and white press photos, which he has afterwards coloured in, using the same pastel tints. In this way, he has created, always in correct perspective, new photographic images that seduce us with their colours while they repel us with their representations.

He follows a similar procedure in the series A Personal Geographic/The Acts of Mercy (2000-2008).

In his work, all collages are invariably made by hand. He cuts out images and integrates them with other pictures, as neatly as possible and always according to the correct perspective of the photo. Wilmering wilfully makes no use of Photoshop and remarks: “The time-consuming work involved in making these collages is for me a statement for ‘slow art’ and a humanistic sense of proportion.”

For A Personal Geographic/The Acts of Mercy, he has made exclusive use of imagery culled from the magazine National Geographic. As a little boy, he saw the colourful articles presented by this American periodical in his parental home. Although these articles often dealt with cruel conditions, they were always beautifully photographed and so managed to exercise a reassuring effect on the viewer. However awful the reality is, the beautiful pictures suggested that all would come right in the end.

In his Personal Geographic, the world has become a grimmer place. At first sight you might be put off balance by the familiar National Geographic aesthetic, but closer inspection reveals that the horrors of reality are no longer veiled and new images have come into being.

For the formal division of this series, Wilmering was inspired by the seven-panelled polyptych The Acts of Mercy, painted in 1504 by the Master of Alkmaar: Feeding the Hungry. Giving Drink to the Thirsty. Clothing the Naked. Ministering to the Sick. Visiting Those in Prison. Receiving the Stranger. Burying the Dead.

The series entitled Cut out (2008-2009) is in line with the rest of his collages. This set, however, involves removing image and text rather than combining them. Wilmering has used the front pages of international newspapers as the starting point for Cut out. The cutting out of allinformation and illustration results in, as it were, abstract window frames. These abstract compositions now make one think rather of building planswhere, just as in the daily news, “it is easy to lose your way”.

Luuk Wilmering’s latest project, Bird needs shelter, was largely created during his work period in the Holsboer studio in Paris.

Bird needs shelter is concerned with the duplicitous character of man’s dealings with nature. In this four-part series, birds and our relationship with them form the central subject. The series shows how man, through ‘abuse of power’, causes the extinction of certain species, how birds are hunted and how they should be properly served and eaten. However, the series also shows the possibilities of escape: the Egghouses and the birds that disappear into nature and are cut out and doubled by the artist. 

The structure of the work is defined by four imaginary personages, each of whom stands for a certain mentality: the gastronome, the scientist, the hunter and the artist. Around these characters, Wilmering has spent two years making four installations, which connect and refer to each other.

For this project which is not yet completed, he has realized more than a hundred drawings, coloured-in photos, designs and collages, and has made hundreds of photos, including many taken in the Musée national d’Histoire Naturelle.

During his stay in Paris, we got to know both Luuk Wilmering and his work very well. Impressed by his determination, by the refinement and thoroughness he brings to every detail and by his immersion in and ultimate ability to press on to the very heart of his subject matter.

Marieke Wiegel, 2011