NK Gallery is proud to present Aluminous, a solo exhibition by Royal Prize winner Dutch painter Marjolein Rothman (Eibergen, 1974). On show is a series of new oil paintings on aluminum featuring an array of flowers ranging from orchids to irises and narcissus. With this latest series of work, Rothman presents her own take on the age-old genre of the memento mori (remember that you will die) dear to the Dutch Golden Age artists to whom she pays homage.
Unlike illustrious ancestors and similar to more recent interpretations of the genre, Rothman overlooks traditional symbols of death such as the skull and the hourglass to foreground the medium of painting itself, and a specific relation to analogue photography. In line with previous series, Rothman uses color (or rather the lack of it), brushwork and the use of photographs to reflect on the fleetingness of art, memory and life.
Most of the works included in the present exhibition were created during the span of one continuous session during which Rothman used painterly techniques that foreground the ‘performativity’ of painting such as dripping and ‘feathering’ as German painter Gherard Richter put it. The use of aluminum, instead of traditional canvas, facilitates that process. It also enables the local erasure of applied paint thanks to polishing, towards improvement through partial obliteration.
The result is a series of gestural paintings that bespeaks the very act of creation in its life-affirming marking, as well as its unavoidable failures. It also does the limited lifespan of its featured motifs –the flowers—as well as the temporal-dimension of the photographs used as blueprints for the works. Indeed, Rothman who was first trained as a photographer, compares her own working process to analogue printing. She does not as much ‘composes’ paintings as she rather attempts to “fix” an image as it emerges from the reflecting metallic surface.
Light, as the title of the show suggests, plays here a crucial role. It is what allows the work to come into being in the first place –just as in the case of analogue photography. This is why Rothman works predominantly with black and scales of grey, subsequently mixed with a limited range of colors on her palette –one at a time.
Not unlike memories, often symbolized by analogue photography and the yellow dye of old clichés, Rothman’s paintings seem to be in a state of latent being. They reveal themselves only partially, and as if in a flash. They remind us that all things beautiful are as transient and ungraspable as life itself.
Catherine Somzé, 2017