Article Jan Teeuwisse about Greta Cune

From time to time, as director of an art museum, you're asked the perennial question 'What is art? It always happens when you least expect it, and it's always irritating. Such an immense question demands a plain, almost laconic answer. So I then prefer to be analytical, trying to talk my way from the abstract to concrete. Art, whether it is a bronze equestrian statue or a highly idiosyncratic, half-baked idea inside someone's head, art is made by artists. And those artists are people like everyone else, the only difference being that they apparently feel a strong need to convert their experiences, emotions, feelings, fantasies, their take on the world, into one of the media that are part of the daily expanding mass of phenomena that are commonly referred to as 'art'. The fact that artists are differentiated by this urge and must absolutely give expression to it emerges from the fact that they do so until they die, most of them unpaid or in any event under paid, without ever enjoying the sweet fruits of an occupational pension. Thus artists opt for a modest journey through life, albeit one which nevertheless offers them the mental freedom of satisfying that inner urge. The rest of mankind, allowing themselves to be seduced by the material charms of a new saloon car or fitted kitchen, sacrifice their liberty in exchange. A virtually leisureless existence in grey concrete boxes under the yoke of a boss is then their fate while, frequently, an obsessively pursued hobby helps to rescue a modicum of self-respect. This explains why the rest of the world looks up to and admires that poor but free and uncompromising artist. The most famous example, of course, is Vincent van Gogh whose museum in Amsterdam attracts a queue of international fans hours before opening times every day. On the whole, the public art museums - a phenomenon of the late eighteenth century - can be seen as the cathedrals of the modern age where, for a fee, one can worship at the shrine of our idolised artists.

Greta Cune is one of those people who distinguishes herself from her fellow human beings as an artist. Greta is not swathed in rags nor has she one ear missing but she was born with a natural inclination, talent and will to shape her observations and fascinations in the form of art. Other than her training at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague Cune's biographical details are largely unknown to me. The years of study and her exhibitions would suggest that she is a late developer in any event. I base myself on her photographs, drawings, prints and textile paintings which I saw last year in a small exhibition close to The Hague. Her subjects appear to be everyday: people in a church, in a museum or at the market, the paving stones of a city, the trees in a wood, the bark of a tree, branches covered in snow, a spit of land that drifts like a long boat into a lake, a beach with traces of human habitation and so on. Cune is fascinated by the miracle that daily unfolds before her eyes. She sees what everyone could see, but doesn't. By looking closely Cune makes abstract compositions of slices of reality, turning the quotidian into a subdued spectacle. In her work she looks for contrast, between the natural and the artificial, between order and chaos, between rough and smooth, between straight and bent, between the calculated and the coincidental, and each time she tries to expose the underlying structure of the natural wonder. The special thing about Cune's work is that the viewer is invited to join in making the analysis. For those taking the trouble, her work is accessible and a pleasure to be drawn into. The craftsmanship of this aesthetic and intelligent oeuvre - in photograph, drawing, print or textile - is excellent though understated and self-evident.

From time to time, as director of a museum that depends on the effort of a large group of volunteers, I am asked to write a piece in a catalogue or to speak a word at an opening because those volunteers harbour a certain amount of concealed artistic ambition. To avoid setting any precedents, but above all because there must be a distinction in terms of my involvement between art for pleasure and art out of need, I've managed to date to extricate myself from this predicament. For Greta Cune I have made an exception because not only is her work professional but I have, moreover, been struck by its individualism, authenticity, intelligence and qualitative balance. Cune's fascination for the world around her and her ability to express this poetically, and sometimes whisperingly, in different art forms derives from a need and constitutes, to my mind, the guarantee of a promising future.

Jan Teeuwisse

Amsterdam 23 September 2007

Jan Teeuwisse (1955) publishes in the field of modern sculpture. In 2004 he was awarded a doctorate for his thesis on the development of early modern Dutch sculpture under the influence of French classicism (Han Wezelaar Statuaire). Teeuwisse has been director of the museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen and director of the allied Sculptuur Instituut since 2002.

Translated by Margaret Clegg

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