Persona May, 20th 2022 by

  World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 365 - Robbert Pauwels

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 365 – Robbert Pauwels
A few weeks ago I visited Robbert Pauwels’ solo exhibition in Billytown The Hague with the title ‘From Billy to the Hills’. On murals of large, monumental size, a landscape of drops, letters, fences and shivering figures passes us in a circle as we travel from the city, through the dunes, to the town of the maker’s youth.

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The Hills turns out to be the dune area of The Hague and a bit northwards towards Katwijk. A number of murals were first on paper and then enlarged, others were painted directly on the wall as a fresco, I hear when I visit him some time later.

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Wide brush
Robbert Pauwels used a mobile scaffold and a ladder and designed his own broad brush. This resulted in an airy and sometimes even 3D-like image. Between the color you see the white spaces and wavy stacks. The sculptural elements are present in various places, in particular hands with drops stacked in between and drops on a tongue.

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Robbert Pauwels: “It’s nice to have it balanced. I was inspired by Brancusi, who once made an infinity pillar.” The boy in the painting has his hands over his eyes, he is crying. It is the artist’s memory of a camping love. That went wrong and he broke down crying.

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Memories and daydreams
In Pauwels’ work it is often about memories, daydreaming, worrying and endless association. This even goes so far that he is sometimes not present in the ‘here-and-now’. “They are fragments and sentiments. Something reminds me of something else. It’s a kind of self-reflection, romantic too. An image – for example the thought of the color of my old bicycle – brings me back to my childhood. But I also question it. You had the comic Red Ears (Rooie Oortjes) in the Aktueel. I watched it secretly. The women in it were seductive, beautiful, blond and willing. What’s up with that? I wonder then. I grew up with it. It also applies to movies and literature.”

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A good example of the latter is the film Cruel Intentions. The series is one of the film adaptations of the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. “The main characters move in a poppy-like culture with very nice poppy jackets. I come from that generation. Early 90s.”

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Ornate fence
At the beginning of the exhibition you see a young man dancing gracefully on the green moss through nature. Left and right are blue hands that seem to want to stop him. Next to it is a painting of an ornate fence with the text SPIRITUAL NARCISSISM above it. Pauwels wrote down this text after a bike ride from Katwijk to Billytown. On the way he saw this fence. “You see the fences getting bigger and more impressive. This fence wasn’t even the most special. But it did stay in my head. Once I got to Billytown, I wrote it down.”
What does he mean by that? Among other things, that he is too much of a perfectionist, and that he is stuck in himself. “Everything has meaning. That leads to deep thinking, so that I am no longer in the now. I think I should avoid that. It is an obstacle to my freedom. But I never rebelled against it.”

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Big squirrel
In another painting we see a ghostly forest, with a large squirrel at the bottom. It was supposed to represent a Squirrel, the speed of drawing made it a feline. “A memory of a holiday in a forest. It became a kind of fairy tale with that squirrel as a mythical creature. I used casein paint, a milky paint.” The circle is complete with a young lady in bed under a pink blanket. She balances something with her feet. It was the first painting of this exhibition. “You can still see the paint drips.”
Robbert Pauwels started out as a sculptor and he still sees himself as such. But over time, his work has expanded to include drawings, murals and installations.

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Key work
Does he have a key work? He has. A couple of frogs made of polystyrene foam, 2.20 meters high, made of blue candle wax. Made in 2017. “To a frog figurine of my grandmother. It became figurative. I wanted this image as the end result. I hadn’t worked figuratively for a long time, but this time I allowed myself. It was good at once.”
Pauwels graduated from the AKI in 2008. He then left for The Hague where he followed the postgraduate program of the Free Academy from 2008-2010. In 2015 he attended a ceramics residency at the EKWC, the European Ceramic Work Center in Oisterwijk. He thought that was fantastic.

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What is his experience of art life?
“To start with, it’s great to work here in Billytown. You are often alone in the studio. I also work as a teacher of visual arts and crafts at a secondary school in Wassenaar. It is intensive and hard work.”
Finally, does Robbert have a philosophy?
“I read a lot about and from René Girard. He writes about authenticity and imitation. His basic concept is mimesis, imitation in human behaviour. He has applied his theory to the origin of human culture. He argues that the increase in brain mass in the hominins meant they got better and better at mimicry. But this does not only have beneficial consequences.”
1)From Billy To the Hills Crying, 2) FromBillytotheHills 07, 3) FromBillytotheHills 02, 4) FromBillytotheHills 03, 5) FromBillytotheHills 08, 6) ) FromBillytotheHills 09, 7) Frogs, 8) Cruel Intentions, 9) portrait Robbert Pauwels, 10) Red Ears

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