A Play on An Entropic Freedom (Wolly's Blanket with Bob Eikelboom)
The text was written in autumn 2022 after visit to Bob Eikelboom's studio in South London.
Inside Bob's studio: a massive rectangle and shapes: paintings, cut-outs stuck to them, radio, a table with more shapes and materials. Baby Wolter, Teddy, Teddy filming. There is also a machine - spinning simultaneously on two axes, a machine for casting heads in plastic. We spoke when Bob worked on those portraits a few months ago and he thought then that he himself should be making all the actual objects, he didn't want to employ anyone to make the sculptures or produce casts. He built his own machine for this. And he made the clay model. I walk towards a test cast on the other side of the room. It now serves as a flower vase, with some artificial flowers in it (which made me think of Teddy).
It is cast in plastic but you can still sense the clay. There are finger marks, you can feel how much or how little potency was involved in movements that shaped it. In fact the whole sculpture feels like traces of movements, it speaks of something clumsy. So I wonder if it relates to being a child. It made me think of the early Drawing Restrains by Matthew Barney, where he jumps around the studio in a harness, and of contemporary dance: fall and recovery. Lose control, then tense from the core, then let your body flop. A work of art becomes a dance with matter, adventure versus intention, listening and imposing, awkwardness and elegance. The clumsiness of the finger marks point to the hands themselves becoming material. The artist's will, like a withdrawing wave, retreated from the fingertips, and they flopped heavily onto the clay.
So it has to be made by the artist. The huge rectangular paintings are taller than a human, in width they are similar to one with spread arms, so coming close, one can feel enveloped, or perhaps even child-like. On those huge paintings there is freedom of movement of the elements, a static background and a foreground saturated with mobility.
Changing composition is possible, although is it? One of them is unfinished. It made me think of my evening ritual, when I was a child, rubbing my eyes very hard and seeing all sorts of things, shapes, materials. It is the first time that I see surrealism in Bob's work. Perhaps it is a landscape, a night landscape without light, lovely darkness.
I love that painting. I can disappear in it. Pete and Wolter are looking at it. Pete likes some things, not others.
To me it is a bit of an abyss. But I love the materials and shapes within it, they are all treated differently. The material dictates how it is used. On the edges of it, is where the artist's hand softens. Where the dance is, again. And so they are all different - the magnets. They are not only images, they are objects, things. Even the images within those things are things, all enveloped in a general gathering of hand gestures - cuts and brush strokes. Yes, it feels like a gathering, because those gestures and materials are invited to the painting, and invited to come as they are - whatever this might mean.
It feels different to Bob's work I've seen before, as if the horizon shifted and space rose up.
Later I wrote down:
Letting things be themselves in themselves is a contradiction of freedom while simultaneously being its perfect realisation.
I move towards a big, red and pink painting - Untitled and the smaller Still Life No 5.
I think: things are not integral anymore: even an image falls apart, physically dismantled. An image which is a painting, a painting that is so close to a human. It comes from the depths of a human. And even those depths, the intuitions, the thoughts, the feelings, impressions and instances in time, can be lifted, analysed, questioned and collaged. Everything is discredited. Nothing is grounded. There is the background, there are the objects.
I pause there.
I go to the second room with most recently finished work.
The big black painting, Medusa 3, is very particular and every movable piece has gravity, poignancy and roots.
It is different.
And I feel like the world that fell apart a minute ago, just came together.
Bob set up a problem, a humorous and deeply serious test on the nature of reality: is it fragmented and freely customisable? He went right into the core of the cynical desperation of this idea with the enthusiasm of a child. He went through and went past the entropic freedom. And he got all the way to this big dark painting, that requires one to look in the first place, to be with it. And - to Wolly's Blanket.
I stay and look for a long time, being moved.
What a relief, to see it at the end of that journey, from one painting to another, that the world exists.
This realisation is made more real, for the risk that nevertheless is left in the compositions. The elements are still not fixed. A sense of natural systems within those last paintings, the unity and particularity they have, is still marked by instability, a risk that things might, after all, fall apart. But what previously was intellectually playful, is now an attention to the fragile occurance of beauty in life.