When my eyes first glanced upon Sjaak Korsten’s artworks, which are currently on display at PontArte Gallery in Maastricht, I felt something affective within me. It was something difficult to describe as it was driven by intuition and feelings rather than reason. It was an experience of deep connection with the artwork that was in front of me. This was a rather exceptional occurrence given that I knew little about the stories behind the artworks at that moment. It is a unique experience when one is able to connect so effortlessly with a piece of art at first glance while knowing little about it. My excitement and admiration for Korsten’s artworks rose.
Shortly afterwards, I had the honour of interviewing the artist in regard to his artworks. The pieces that are on display at PontArte can be described as neat and clean in style, as formed from whites, browns and occasional appearances of colors and as possessing a delicate ‘whispering’ quality to them. Besides their distinct visual aesthetics, these works are built from several layers of meaning. The poetic, the sentimental, the personal and the intuitive are intimately interconnected in Korsten’s artworks. This was just to name a few, yet there are so many more meanings that can be found in each of the pieces on display.
What inspires Korsten derives from nature.
He looks everywhere for the things that touch him, that produce something within him. These things are then shaped as the inspirational basis for his pieces. Whenever he looks around, he does so through the lenses of composition, already establishing the preciseness that we see in his art works. For him, processing inspiration is a non-linear, artistic, intimate and intuitive process. After Korsten absorbs the element that touched him, he allows it to be ‘digested’. The inspiration settles in his mind, in a process of contemplation that leads to an intimate transcoding into an expressive artistic idea. When the contemplation phase has reached its finality, Korsten allows his hands to flow intuitively, thus shaping the now expressive inspiration into something palpable, a piece of highly sensitive artwork that is able to communicate with us. If we allow ourselves to be open when viewing his works, we are able to experience a transcoded artistic expression of the same inspirational somethings that previously touched Korsten.
The exhibition’s title, “Witness”, is inspired from the marks shaped as crosses on the stages where Korsten would play with his band. Drummer of The Ragtime Rumours, he travelled across Europe and the US for his shows. In all of these places, crosses were placed on the stage in order to indicate where people had to stand. These marks are the witness to the places where Korsten had been. PontArte displays 8 photographs that Korsten took of these marks. In these photographs, the graphic blacks and whites create visible contrasts that immediately draw your eye to the subject matter and make you wonder about the story behind them. The beauty of these crosses lays in the fact that they take the viewer on a journey around the world, as if we were also part of the band, taking our exact position before the show begins and joining Korsten in his many travels.
Yet the crosses are not limited to the stages of the world. Due to the concurrent virus, the band was not able to play anymore. During this time, Korsten took a lot of walks around his neighbourhood. Once more, he found the cross, the witness of the visited places. This time it was in the nature around him, in the proximity of his house. PontArte displays three photographs, called Witness ,that pick on this different, more local, narrative.
Furthermore, Korsten possess outstanding mastery of the various mediums which he employs in his artworks. The piece called “Witness”, made from a 150 x 90 cm sheet of Indian paper, was sanded for about seven hours on the floor in front of Korsten’s studio.
In this careful process, the little stones that were on the ground pierced through, making exquisite, unique and delicate breaks on the surface of the paper. For Korsten, this was a highly meditative process in which the marks of the place were transcribed onto the paper. By witnessing “an important place to be”, as Korsten put it, this artwork preserves the essence of the actual place in which it was created.
Transcribing actual places in pieces of artwork is a recurring theme in Korsten’s artworks. Korsten’s whole solo exhibition at PontArte revolves around specific places that are important to him. Moving around and standing still in the real world are also themes that are explored in Korsten’s works. “Where” and “Here” are two pieces which Korsten made especially for this exhibition. “Where” is it? As a spiral going around, this piece is about movement, similar to running around. Actually, it’s “Here”! What is remarkable about these two pieces is that these concepts, sensations, emotions of being on the move and being grounded are felt within the viewer’s body as one looks at “Where” and “Here”.
Another important aspect of this exhibition is the uniqueness of the displayed pieces, as many were created especially for this exhibition at PontArte. With the final image of the exhibition in mind, Korsten “walked slowly to that point”, as he put it, and created diverse works along the way, while keeping in mind the point towards which he was going. Thus, each work displayed at PontArte is exceptionally unique and made especially for this occasion. The solo exhibition of Sjaak Korsten can now be privately viewed with the artist present at PontArte. An appointment can be made on the gallery’s website. To do so, choose ‘Exhibitions’ on the top menu, then select “Witness | Sjaak Korsten”. The option to reserve a spot for a private view with Sjaak Korsten can be found at the bottom of the page. We hope to see you there!
text: Diandra Agapie. April 2021