Persona July, 22nd 2021 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 324 - Arthur Stam

arthur stam – MB 1

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 324 – Arthur Stam
One of the guests at the exhibition ‘Solo with guests’ that Inge van Haastert put together at KunstWerkt in Schiedam was Arthur Stam. I saw special paintings with surrealistic-looking scenes.
At that time Arthur Stam also had an exhibition of his work in Dordrecht. On a sunny Saturday morning in May I went to Galerie Wijnstraat to view the exhibition ‘Opera Buffa’. Arthur Stam himself was present to tell a few things about it.

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The Opera Buffa is a playful, frivolous opera variant. Rossini made many, including ‘The Barber of Seville’. That playfulness and frivolity is also present in the work of Arthur Stam. He creates ‘genre scenes’, interior spaces, sets with one or more people doing something.

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A tour
What did it start with? Arthur Stam: “I often went by bicycle from Delft to the Rotterdam Art Academy and then I saw allotments, sometimes with house doors as a fence, glasshouses made of old windows, crops sown or planted along clean lines, a compost heap, etc. I thought it was beautiful, and I still think so.
The division and cultivation of such a simple piece of land, the fragility of the crops, rise and fall, a wealth of subjects. You can say: the subject is a garden with accessories, the theme is: order, transience.”
Stam: “There is something that I call the ‘allotment garden principles’, by which I mean making something with what’s within reach in a cluttered garden or in a shed, or a garbage container, old windows that you can turn into a greenhouse or doors out of a container for a toilet… We all want that, don’t we?”

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Certainly. Do you still make compost heaps?
Stam: “Of course there is one in our garden, but as a painting subject it seems exhausted. But now I have ‘factories’ that are akin to compost heaps: a product is worked in unison, for compost by the lower organisms and worms, in our factories by the smartest creature on earth (according to himself). There is also heat, cutting and shredding, etc.”
This large painting ‘Étagère’, what about that?
We walk to work. Arthur Stam: “I start with an interior space, a more or less indefinable interior, and I want to make it as spacious as possible, so that people can enter and breathe.
The suggestion that oxygen is present is important to me. What you see is a somewhat pyramidal shape in three floors, resembling one of those ladies’ things with petit fours and such. But this one is very robust and rickety at the same time, with pieces of wood and zinc hammered together and clamped.
It has no model as an example, it has been built up while painting and is largely impossible outside the painting. The impossible can easily have a place in a painting.
It has something of a crazy construction made by a very crafty lad one afternoon, a kind of allotment ‘folly’.”

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“I like it when one can enter the painting and breathe, take in oxygen. I am the opposite of Piet Mondrian, who banned any spatial effect in his work. On the contrary, I am very fond of the possibilities of depicting a space within one painting.”
To what extent are you a realist?
“Well, to some extent… you can put together a pretty realistic ensemble from my production, but I’ve always liked to do different things: unadulterated realism, but also involving the imagination or the subconscious, although the latter is by its nature difficult to weigh.
It often takes the form of a kind of ‘genre scene’, in other words: one or more figures in a room, whether or not engaged in something.
This can also take a very romantic form.”
This ‘Costa Brava’, that’s romance!
“I thought so too. In general: wild waves, high mountain peaks, etc. Small man, great nature, this is a general view, which I share and I add my own accents. Romance continues. A few years ago we saw a strong example of that Laura Dekker, that ‘sailing girl’. At fifteen, alone crossing the oceans…”

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Key work
Does Arthur Stam have a key work? “Stam’s Demoiselles d’Avignon? I do not have those. Every now and then I do have a fruitful insight: the Chinese characters, which are partly anthropomorphic, have led to new work.”
Now we are at the viewing cabinets, so an extra dimension
“Exactly, there is nothing more spacious than the space itself after all. So in general they are genre pieces, people eat, build, design, rest. Preferably in a lived-in workspace or room. The great thing is that you can suggest a large space in a small cupboard, you work on scale and you can then make a frikandel from a grain of sprinkles by placing it on a two centimetre plate.
In French it is called a ‘boite à images’. They are picture cabinets or imagination cabinets.
Well, it’s always about achieving something with a lot of resources.”

arthur stam – 7-

1)Opera buffa – viewing cabinet, depth 80 cm – div. materials – 2020, 2) Étagère, oil paint, 150 x 170 cm, 2019, 3) De Zaak Zonnebloem, oil paint, 160 x 220 cm, 1992, 4) Piñonden, oil paint, 17 x 33 cm, 2020, 5) Glory of Liège , oil paint, 32 x 40 cm, 2018, 6) Costa Brava, mixed technique on paper, 56 x 76 cm, 2020, 7) Détail ”Costa Brava”

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