Portret van een jonge man (initiatie)
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
This work by Tiong Ang shows the head of a young man who is undergoing an eye operation. One of his eyes is shut, while the other is being held wide open with the help of medical instruments, though it cannot see any more at that moment than the eye that is shut. The wooden backing of the painting is 13 cm thick and consists of two parts placed one against the other. The edges which form the middle are rounded. The representation continues over the two parts. The outer edges slope diagonally inwards. The thickness of the backing and the striking edges give the work a strong physical presence. The canvas painted black and white, has one black and one yellow piece of netting stretched over it. These make it more difficult to recognize the image, but at the same time attract attention. The curious visitor is almost literally tempted to raise the veil. The veils and the rounded edges of the work give it a sensual quality.
Ang’s images are usually based on existing visual materials which are distributed by means of mass communication such as newspapers, magazines and television. In these “unasked for, incessantly produced images” Ang isolates one and presents this image in such a way that it can be viewed and considered in complete quiet. The enormous wave of images which overwhelms people on a daily basis inevitably leads to a deadening of the senses or even immunity with regard to what is happening in the world. The significance of seeing things is lost in the enormous quantity of images that have to be processed and the speed with which they are presented. Ang tries to present a counterweight.
When he was staying in West Africa in 1990 he became fascinated by initiation rituals. These are often accompanied by some form of mutilation. Ang refers to this by painting an eye which is (temporarily) disfigured, but he also deforms the representation by dividing it into two parts. An initiation ritual serves to mark the transition to a new stage (of life). In 'Portrait of a young man (initiation)' this is a new stage in seeing. If the operation is successful the young man’s vision is literally broadened. However, this image above all serves as a metaphor for inner seeing: a moment for contemplation and reflection which leads to an insight into and understanding of what is truly valuable. The form and the presentation of Ang’s work tell the same story. They invite us to make room for a moment so that we can continue, enriched.
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