TRACES, SM-‘s Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL, 2013

SM-‘s Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL
9 Nov 2013 – 2 Feb 2014

Gijs van Lith’s main focus is on painting but his body of work also entails sculptures and installations. His work is all about the creation, the joy of and the actual process of painting. He works systematically and in serial order. In his painting he explores ideas about materiality, originality, time and light. In his work often surfaces his interests in (art-) history, theoretical views, movies and sports.

“The Mister Miyagi Paintings or: How I revisit my plans by applying and removing paint”

In his series “The Mister Miyagi Paintings”, the process of “doing” is possibly even more important and present than before. Paintings are created in a continuous state of revision: he constantly adds layers of paint and then sands them down to the point where he creates holes in the canvas and he literally has to stop.

The title of the “Mister Miyagi Paintings” is derived from a character from the “Karate Kid” movie. Mr. Miyagi, the main character’s tutor, invents all kinds of common and unusual tasks to help his pupil master the techniques of karate. Tasks such as “wax on, wax off”: the waxing and buffing and removing of the Turtle Wax from a car, a completely useless and silly task, until it becomes apparent that these techniques resemble one of the crucial defense techniques in a karate fight.

Consequently, Van Lith recognizes the importance of performing these seemingly useless acts, and the intrinsic sense of peace or bliss one can attain from them. Some similarities can even be drawn to Albert Camus essay ‘The myth of Sisyphus’ and Nietsche’s essay ‘Das tun ist alles’.

But Van Lith radar refers to his youth and upbringing instead of referencing directly to art history and theory. In this series the canvas functions as a “window”. The symbolism of a window is a recurring theme in the art of painting: the window as a framed piece of a larger picture. For Gijs van Lith the painting and its canvas are a window, even the cross (of the frame) that shines through in the canvasses of this triptych, as a result of his work process emphasizes this. Van Lith’s Paintings are windows that allow the viewer to look into the landscape of the process of painting, enabling us a view into the actual “painting”.

Drs. E. Stegeman (MA)

Curator of the SM-‘s Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch