16 December 2015
The winning artwork from the Open Call is on view until 17 January 2016 in the exhibition 'When I Give, I Give Myself'.
In the exhibition When I Give, I Give Myself, 23 contemporary artists respond to fragments of Vincent van Gogh’s letters by way of a work of art, poetry or their own letter. In an Open Call, burgeoning artists were invited to submit a proposal for an artwork representing their own response to such a fragment of a Van Gogh letter. From nearly 70 submissions, the jury selected Being Unpolished by Gwen van den Bout (1992) as the winning artwork. This piece has now been added to the When I Give, I Give Myself exhibition, on display at the Van Gogh Museum until 17 January 2016.
Gwen van den Bout recently graduated in Lifestyle and Design from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Her installation Being Unpolished is a direct response to a passage from a letter written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo in 1882. In this letter, Van Gogh outlines what artistry means to him: “Mauve blames me for saying, I’m an artist – which I won’t take back, because those words naturally imply always seeking without ever fully finding. It’s the exact opposite of saying, ‘I know it already, I’ve already found it’. To the best of my knowledge, those words mean “I seek, I pursue, my heart is in it’.”
The artistic quest
Gwen van den Bout’s installation illustrates the constant process of change affecting rocks in nature, as a metaphor for the artist’s development. Van den Bout: “As with a gemstone, facets have to be cut around the stone and it needs to be polished. Only then does the stone reveal its ultimate value. The installation symbolises the quest of a recently-graduated artist with the potential to flourish into an outstanding talent. For the time being, the recently-graduated artist is still a rough diamond and we encounter it amidst what looks like an archaeological excavation.”
In addition to financial support she received to enable her to create the work, Van den Bout has also been awarded €1,089. Converted to today’s money, this is the sum that Theo van Gogh sent to his brother every month to cover his living costs and enable him to devote himself to his art.
Unanimous jury decision
The 68 submissions were judged by jury members Henk Schut (guest curator of When I Give, I Give Myself), Nienke Bakker (Curator of Van Gogh Paintings at the Van Gogh Museum) and Marije Vellekoop (Head of Collections, Research and Presentation at the Van Gogh Museum): “The artists were from a huge range of different disciplines and the proposals were equally diverse. We were impressed by how Gwen van den Bout linked the letter fragment to her own situation as a recently-graduated artist. The visualisation of the artistic quest is striking and deserving of a place in our exhibition, which in turn illustrates how 125 years after his death, Vincent van Gogh is still inspiring contemporary artists.” The When I Give, I Give Myself works are on display amongst the permanent collection and the exhibition runs until 17 January 2016 at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition and the Open Call for young artists was made possible with the support of the Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds.