Bert Frijns: t-mat  helder, 2014 ; glas, h 33 cm,  ø 13 cm


and the mystery of meaning

Angela van der Burght

Posted 3 February 2014

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“The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation.”
Hilton Kramer

In 1973, Bert Frijns (1953) took up his studies at the Sculpture Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy where he graduated five years later, continuing his education with a specialization in glassblowing, which he completed in 1980. Already during his final exam exhibition, his work was discovered by Benno Premsela who introduced him to – among others – Judith Cahen, which enabled him to start working on several commissions for the PTT (Dutch Postal Services), Aesthetic Service in The Hague. And so Wim Crouwel - Judith Cahen’s husband – also got acquainted with his work which in 1987 resulted in his first solo exhibition in the Rotterdam Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. He executed a few commissions for school windows in cooperation with Kunst en Bedrijf in Amsterdam and a commission for 10,000 m2 glass for KPMG in De Meern through Bureau Hooykaas in Amsterdam. His work is being represented by Galery De Rijk, The Hague, and Brutto Gusto in Berlin (Germany).

Even more than to the all-embracing concept of Minimalistic Art, Frijns’ work belongs to the Fundamental Art, a movement within this style, modern art and 20th-century painting. Artists of the Fundamental Art movement investigate basic principles like form, colour, size or for instance technique. This investigation into the essence of form, where medium, colour, material, light and all formal image aspects often begin to take shape radically in series, is characteristic of this style. Just like the work of Carl André, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, John D. Graham, Eva Hesse and Gerhard Richter, Frijns’ work with its geometrical abstraction creates beacons in silence and quiet which can cause ‘the mystery of meaning’ between spectator and reality. Just like with the Zero artists, the work is also able to join in with the place where it is situated and in addition to which also the painting turns into sculpture or installation.

Bert Frijns

Bert Frijns: compositie 2 schalen, 2009; heldere schalen met water, glas, ø 110 cm hoog 25 cm 

And what an immense enjoyment it is when you finally – in all peace and quiet and after the rush of a long journey and the big city – can let the work speak for itself in a museum like the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, the Guggenheim in Bilbao or New York, Museum De Pont in Tilburg (NL) or MUKA in Gent (B)! Almost meditatively, one’s attention can be focussed on a goal where – as in religion – at that very moment the distinction between the object and the whole disappears and everything can fuse. Through the observer’s concentration and contemplation the meanings become known. After all, Bert Frijns’ works are not about aesthetics but about signs or phenomena as observable occurrences like fever in medical science, a rainbow with the weather and reflection in art. The word phenomenon comes from Greek and means literally ‘something that can be seen’. Wikipedia describes: The concept ‘phenomenon’ has another specific meaning in Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. In his Kritik der reinen Vernunft he uses the term ‘phenomenon’ contrasted with ‘noumenon’. Phenomena describe the world as we experience it and are opposed to the world as it exists irrespective of our experiences (Ding an sich, or ‘thing-in-itself’). People cannot know, according to Kant, the true nature of things, only the things as they are being experienced. About beauty according to Kant you can read an interesting text on;

Bert Frijns: pas de deux, 2008; glas, ø 90 cm, h100 cm

As a result of what is happening during this process of designing and executing, new aspects emerge continually. The heap is becoming higher, the cylinder is slumping more crooked, the vase is getting a base. The process of development is also being nourished by the commissions Frijns gets.
While making sculptures, the artist can choose between several disciplines from where to set off – apart from the choice of material and technique: sculpturing and carving, when material is being removed; assembling parts to a greater whole; moulding (adding, constructing) from workable, plastic materials; by cutting or cutting out or like Frijns does by moulage or forming/deforming with moulds. The understanding that a sheet of heated plane float glass will behave like ‘a wet cloth’, will bend and adjust to its base, will sag through a ring, pleat and fold according to the action, makes the simplest intervention by Frijns into an exciting form. 

Inside and outside the shapes fill up with water and this third non-material displays the boundaries of where the glass ends and the light begins even more.
The spheres, windings and curves and the stacking emphasize the form like a magnifying glass. The water surface acts as a mirror to phenomena like light, space and for instance the weather and the scenery with the gigantic Zeeland skies.
Eventually, the work is as the nature-lover Frijns himself, a pure, honest shape created of all elements: earth, fire, air and water.
A perfect symbiosis between nature and culture.
Engelse translation: Ingrid Bongers –
Fjoezzz 2010


Bert Frijns: pas de deux, 2013; glas, ø 5 cm, h 29 cm

Bert Frijns: compositie 6, 2013; vazen, glas, ø 44 cm, h 100 cm

For Glashelder I wrote before: “Immediately after entering Bert Frijns’ workshop, located just behind the dike on Schouwen in Zeeland, you understand what his work is all about. The only colour present is the colour of the glass and of the light. The space, the peace and quit and the light make their presence just as much felt in the old hay-barn as in his work. Huge dishes are waiting calmly for further processing or finishing. Heaps of smaller dishes just exist. Here the distance which is necessary to be able to look at your own work is tangible, in the literal and figurative sense. Every dent or small intervention becomes visible so that the right decision can be made.” Because this intervention on the laws of the natural slumping of the glass while sagging or the refraction of light of the water in the sculptures should be carried out accurate to the millimetre, not higher, deeper or lower. The conceptual approach of not wanting to be present in your work with marks or a handwriting causes the interventions which Frijns does make to be very intense on the perfect forms; the action then determines the form. Sometimes caused by tools, as with denting, or else caused by gravity itself, as with transforming on a stone.

Bert Frijns: hoog, hoger, hoogst, 2011; glas, ø 73 cm, h 175 cm

Bert Frijns: pas de deux, 2013; glas ø 7,5 cm, h 14,5 cm

Exposition Glasmuseet, Ebeltoft, Denmark, 2010
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

Exposition Glass is more!, Engine room Strijp-S, DDW, Eindhoven, 2012
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

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