10 2019 Back to basics. With an Essay by Caleb Williams

Since Facebook and Instagram became standards for artists to communicate with, a selection of my recent work is posted on these social media, see: INSTAGRAM: @robbert_ruigrok

https://www.instagram.com/robbert_ruigrok/?hl=en, or FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/robbert.ruigrok.3

The Art of Robbert Ruigrok.’ Essay by Caleb Williams, 5 September 2019. 
Robbert Ruigrok (b. 1960 in Brussels) is a Dutch artist living in London. Ruigrok’s practice is concerned about, and frequently enters into dialogue with, key developments in modernist art. In large, often monochrome works in charcoal, chalk and oil Ruigrok explores a variety of archetypal forms, the most prominent of which is the ‘tube’.

In the art of Ruigrok, this deceptively simple form takes on multiple representational and symbolic purposes. Most fundamentally of all in a number of Ruigrok’s works, the ‘tube’ is celebrated as a heroic, generative, ur-object from which all else issues and proceeds.

For example in “A Tree?”, 19 May 2018. Charcoal on paper, 59.5 x 42 cm, we discover a tubular piece of charcoal that floats against a pure, white background, as if it is some kind of idealised platonic form, suspended in space. Yet, at the very top of this skilfully rendered image an expanding arc of explosive debris (also suggestive of tree limbs) tells us that a transformation is taking place. The solid cylinder or tube is evolving and growing. Inner energies surge, life erupts.

      ‘A Tree?’, 19 May 2019, charcoal on paper 59.4 x 42 cm. (note under the drawing, in charcoal and in mirror image: ‘EXPLODING PIECE OF CHARCOAL, FROM THE FORM TO THE FORMLESS. EALING, LONDON’. On the right: ‘19.V.2019 R. RUIGROK’.)

A similar transformational process occurs in the playfully titled ‘Piece of Chalk, used to draw this piece of Chalk, I’, 42 x 29 cm. Here a misty puff of particulate matter portrayed by Ruigrok with great care wafts away from the base and apex of the chalk stick, the brilliant cylindrical whiteness of the chalk accentuated by the dense black charcoal background. Again, Ruigrok exhibits his concern with transformation, again what appears solid and fixed must, he suggests, inevitably evolve (or dissolve). 

A picture containing building, outdoor

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 ‘Piece of Chalk, used to draw this piece of Chalk, I’, 42 x 29 cm.                      ‘Piece of Chalk, used to draw this piece of  Chalk, I’, Detail. 

 17 May 2019. Chalk on black gesso on paper. 

As well as exhibiting a knowing familiarity with earlier masters of abstract art (Malevich is an obvious influence) Ruigrok also directs an art historically informed nod (and wink) in the direction of what he calls 

‘neo-dada’. This jovial, prankster-like strand of Ruigrok’s practice can be seen in works such as “Conflict, abstraction, figuration I”. In this painting, a raspberry blowing adolescent face emerges from behind a concealing rectangular abstract shape. The image pokes fun at the superheated discourse undergirding ‘movements’ and ‘isms’, and the inevitable disputes some fall into.

 Conflict Abstraction-Figuration! The Thumb-Nose Man,’ I. Oil on Canvas, 40 x 50 cm.

It is however important to realize Ruigrok’s work is not just a ‘self-reflexive’ exercise, nor solely is it ‘art about the making of art’. It is also art about the pleasure of ‘looking’. There is much to aesthetically entice and ravish the viewer. We encounter passion, precision and deftness in each stroke of charcoal that builds up volume, scale and depth on the picture surface sometimes on a gigantic scale (as in ‘Three of Life’ charcoal on canvas, 200 X 125 cm. See figure p. 6). We also see a classically trained draftsman’s skill at work (for example Ruigrok is fascinated by the tensile strength of hands, which frequently appear in his figurative works). His joy in the animating power of illusionistic representation is vigorously present in both his abstract and figurative excursions.

Then – getting back to the point from which this essay started – underlying everything else there is what we might call the philosophical foundation of much of Ruigrok’s work: the notion that there are channels, or in crude terms ‘tubes’ within each of us that contain different types of energy (a belief that dominates much of Indian philosophy). In Sanskrit these ‘tubes’ are called ‘gunas’. There are three principal ones: a left channel that governs the past (emotion), a right channel that focuses on the future (action), and a middle channel that centers on the present (truth). In combination they inform human development and our outlook on reality: they can mislead us or lead us toward integration and enlightenment.

For Ruigrok, part of the mission, is to visually embed this understanding derived from encounters with eastern thought into his work. His forms have their life cycles, some heading toward evolution and others dissolution. Art, like life, is part of a cyclical energetic process.

‘Three of Life outside studio, Ealing’, 2019. Charcoal and pastel on canvas, 200 x 125 cm

   ‘Three of Life’, 2019. Charcoal and pastel on canvas, 200 x 125 cm.

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