This room is decorated with wallpaper designed by artist Lily van der Stokker. Following a presentation of video works from the Van Abbemuseum’s collection, Van der Stokker was given the opportunity to invite artists to show their work in this space. Now, after Andrea Zittel, it is Esther Tieleman’s turn to be Van der Stokker’s guest.
Before Tieleman’s exhibition was set up, Lily van der Stokker, Esther Tielemans and Marjon de Groot had the following discussion:
MdG: Lily, you’ve had this museum space for some time now. This will be the third presentation and the work
LvdS: No, no, with earlier presentations there was furniture and I had chosen a floor covering, all of which are
extras that don’t really belong to the artwork itself. Now it’s up to Esther to decide what she’s going to do with
all those other elements. The only thing that must stay there is the wallpaper. And Esther has chosen to remove
the floor covering, which she found too ostentatious.
ET: And I thought it was ugly! Now it’s just the grey museum floor. The wallpaper is emphatic enough as it is.
MdG: Esther, your paintings are presented in a spacious way. Your work is very colourful, there’s a lot going on.
I’m interested to know how that’s going to look in Lily’s surroundings.
ET: As a rule, you work in a white space but this is the exact opposite of that. My first idea was to create a
totally different piece that would only consist of monochromes, but out of a sort of respect for Lily...
LvdS: Which is absolutely unnecessary!
ET: No, it’s not necessary, but I found it quite complicated because there is already such a lot going on around you. How should you react to that? But in any case, I was already working with monochromes and the reflections in them. My initial idea was that Lily’s work would be mirrored in the monochromes and that it would literally become a single work. On further reflection however, it became a little more complex because I thought it was great to do something with the exuberance that is in both our works.
MdG: You’re busy on new work then?
ET: Well, a new installation. There will be two existing works and the rest is new. I will display 14 panels in all.
The monochromes are covered with epoxy resin, which will reflect both the surroundings and the visitors. It’s something of a cinematic route along which you will walk.
LvdS: My invitation for this exhibition was of course pleasant, but perhaps it was also something of a
challenge. It’s impossible to ignore this space.
ET: No, but that’s why I found it so interesting. It sparks new thoughts.
LvdS: You wanted to get rid of the floor covering, but you actually have such profusion in your work, which is
what I find so attractive about it. I very much wanted to have a painter do something in the space. We have
already had two video installations, and it’s nice to be able to splash paint around. You get that sense of
stratification and you can play around with the idea of a foreground and background.
ET: That’s what I’m busy on at the moment as well, and with decor. That’s also what links us together.
LvdS: I’m also working with the decorative element in art, whether it’s in the foreground or background, and
how you deal with it.
ET: Because this is wallpaper in the literal sense, it functions in any case as a background.
LvdS: Well...that isn’t always necessarily the case. I once did a mural that resembled wallpaper and was more
dominant that the works that were hung on it.
ET: In that respect, ‘background’ is the wrong choice of word. It is more of an environment. LvdS: Background
immediately implies a sense of inferior activity, which is what we want to do away with anyway. Or at least, I do. Because you’re so busy now with that particular work. We haven’t actually talked about this sort of thing before now.
ET: Maybe that’s also a good thing. If there’s too much discussion, things might dry up.
MdG: How did you actually get to know each other?
LvdS: We met at art school. I saw Esther’s work, liked it and then introduced myself. When I gave her my
business card, she said “Oh, you’re Lily van der Stokker, I love your work!” And we became friends. I saw that
giant painting in the academy that was more of a stage design with a multitude of floral elements and plastic in it. I could see connections with Los Angeles, bad taste and the American West Coast celebration of Pioneer Americanism. What’s your take on that?
ET: What do you mean exactly?
LvdS: New York is in actual fact very European. In the days of the pioneers, when the first wagon trains finally
arrived on the West Coast, they were totally separated from the Old World. The whole idea of freedom, and of
new products, is intrinsic to LA. It is celebrated in a way that we Europeans often call ‘bad taste’. Everything
that we find fake is their freedom, and in which they unashamedly indulge. I also see that in your work. It has
to do with the crudity that you often refer to. The literal coarseness, without virtuoso brushstrokes, as well as the lack of substance. That is also what affects us and what the public accuses us of. And it is for that reason
that we work through it, it is our field of research.
ET: Yes, I definitely recognise myself in that.
LvdS: How do you explain the title that you have chosen, ‘Acting’?
ET: Pretend as if. Art is also pretence. Creating a new dimension on a flat surface. You get a third dimension
through the epoxy resin because it works as a mirror. These things run parallel to the chaos in the real world.
What is real and what is fake? ‘Acting’ is also a reference to the cinematic aspect in my work.
LvdS: Who’s the actor? You?
ET: The visitors are. They literally enter the decor, seeing themselves in that plastic world. A sort of confrontation with the plastic emptiness of our modern existence.
MdG: So there’s actually a dual setting. If your work is a setting that hangs within Lily’s, is that also the reason
why your work is only being displayed on one wall?
ET: Yes, and also that you see the beautiful reflection of one of Lily’s walls.
LvdS: I think it’s wonderful how Esther’s work jumps out at you very powerfully from the wall and that there
is nothing else besides.
ET: The idea is that you don’t stand still but move along the wall. You then see yourself in different ambiances, through black to ‘Lily-pink’. As a spectator, you can determine the actual cut-out. You create, as it were, your own painting.
MdG: To what extent do you find it important that your work remains autonomous within this confrontation,
or is that not important at all?
ET: I like it if my work can be seen in different ways. If a group of twenty people come in, that also changes the work.
LvdS: That hardly affects the autonomy. To my mind, it could be far more emphatic.
ET: On the contrary, the one strengthens the other.
The production of the work by Esther Tielemans was also made possible by Genesis Product Development,