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.
Pieter Ouborg managed to depict an image which can be seen as an archer, with powerful charcoal lines and a few patches of colour. The bottom part of the drawing consists of a relatively large number of small forms very close together. Further up, the lines become longer and more elegant and the shapes emerging from them are larger and looser. There is an S- shaped movement from the bottom up, ending in the bow. Grey areas of colour accompany this movement, strengthening it, and the red in the middle represents the body of the archer. His head is emphasized and the shape can be seen in the black mark.
Ouborg was in Indonesia, a Dutch colony at the time, from 1916 to 1938. There he became influenced by eastern art and calligraphy, but in addition he followed the developments in western art, above all in journals, and his work became influenced by Surrealism. Sometimes Ouborg painted an imaginary scene in a realistic way, but sometimes his work was abstract, based on écriture automatique, and the lines in 'Archer' were created in this way. Ouborg decided on the title retrospectively on the basis of what he saw in the image. In some cases his titles describe an abstract visual element, such as 'Blue oval', but sometimes they suggest a recognizable representation as in 'Archer'. This representation is deliberately accentuated by the areas of colour.
In Ouborg’s work elements from eastern and western art come together and he painted with the direct character of eastern calligraphy. In terms of form and gesture, they corresponded to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, which was characterized by an experimental use of materials and an emphasis on the act of painting. However, for Ouborg this was not a goal in itself. He said: “It is not the visual function of the line or colour that I am looking for in itself. The ‘magic’ which is in them takes my breath away and that is what I am consciously looking for.” He experienced this kind of magic in eastern art and in the eastern way of life, referring to India: “Instead of being a determining factor, man feels that his life is determined and this constantly forces him to adopt a pleading and incantatory attitude”. In his work, Ouburg attempted to translate this sort of attitude into a visual image.
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