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.contents

inTRODUCTIon. by Colin Huizing 6 thoughts. 9 interview. by Hans den Hartog Jager 13 paintings. 69 drawings. 83 sketches. 101 list of works. 109 Biography. 114 Colophon. 5

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.introduction

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Serge Game’s mixed media. The paintings that Serge Game has produced in the last four years initially seem to raise questions. The colourful amorphous structures and substances on the canvas cannot be interpreted unambiguously. Do they represent objects or forms from the visible reality or are we seeing painterly exercises in which the artist explores the formal possibilities of the medium? The titles of the paintings offer no definite answer. Names such as Tweekland, Ronin, Volvo, Dialoog, Looker or Diafragma appear to refer to matters outside the image, rather than to the depiction itself.

Serge Game was originally a figurative painter. His paintings depict landscapes in which small buildings appear and where people are absent. With these representations he is able to evoke an atmosphere of suspense, which dominates many of his paintings. Although not dissatisfied with the results, Game eventually found this approach to be too limited. He now says of that period: “A picture was necessary to create a certain atmosphere and the atmosphere eventually became the content”. Game has gradually managed to break away from this method of painting and his work has acquired a different, more formal character. In his recent work, the act of painting has gained in importance. The atmosphere is less manifest, or at any rate less ominous, the emphasis is on the form. Serge Game’s current paintings are abstract. Abstract in the sense that they do not directly refer to a visible reality. They appear rather to represent a different sort of reality; one that takes place beyond our field of vision, at a micro level, too small to see with the naked eye. Game himself uses the term organic abstraction for his current work. This is a reference to that which is depicted, but perhaps it says more about the way in which Game paints: it is not only about the representation, but also particularly about how the image is created. For Serge Game, the process of painting is at least as important as the eventual result. He first makes drawings on paper, which serve as the basis for new paintings. And although this indicates a methodical and controlled approach, while drawing he actually tries to operate as spontaneously and uncontrolled as possible, whereby paint and brush result in the figures on which new depictions are based. In this phase, Game

practises a form of automatic drawing as it were. His aim is to allow the act of drawing to be a medium through which organic forms can arise as subconsciously as possible, which are subsequently enlarged onto the canvas and further developed. During the process of painting, other forms and figures are added, and colours and paint structures are applied. Now the spontaneous gesture is exchanged for carefully considered decisions; a visually logical coherence is sought between the different components of the image. When the correct tension and balance in the harmony of forms, colours and substance has been found, the work is done; the painting is finished. Serge Game’s work unites divergent painterly attitudes; in it, the act and the visual outcome of painting play equal roles. Although the drawing is primarily carried out as a spontaneous action, when transferring these onto canvas the painter makes wellconsidered judgements in order to arrive at the definitive image. The result looks like something recognizable, but is at the same time virtually unnameable. The depiction is most reminiscent of undefined comic strip fi­gures and architectural or organic inventions. But a genuine foothold is offered neither in the depiction, nor in the title of the painting. The result is that the observer, in search of meaning, is constantly set on the wrong track, much to the satisfaction of the artist.

Colin Huizing, senior conservator Stedelijk Museum Schiedam


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thoughts.


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.interview

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By Hans den Hartog Jager. The studio of Serge Game is located in an old school in Rotterdam-Noord. It is very full: the place is strewn with books, brushes, pots of paint, old works and various canvases ‘under construction’. A piece of paper hangs on the door with the text: ‘Doubt is the sharp awareness of the validity of alternatives’ – a statement by Philip Guston, Game’s great example. We sit at the only table in the space; the painter has managed to empty it with some difficulty. Pinned to the wall behind him are reproductions of his own work: particularly the painting Shade for the Masses that he made in 2005.

Let us start at the beginning. When did you first make a painting whereby you thought: this is really something of my own? Here my personality and my work converge? Game: “Phew, that’s not easy. Not so long ago, I think. Or more precisely: over the years I have made various paintings with which I had that feeling. Some of them are perhaps rather unsightly in the eyes of others, but they are important to me because they marked the start of a new development. Although, really, that ought to apply to every painting. So I would have to say: my last.”

denly someone wants to kill you. This fascination led to the figurative landscapes with houses. But after that year I realized that I didn’t want to do that all my life. I had to move on.” They rather reminded me of Peter Doig. “Yes, though I had to discover that connection myself. Doig was hardly known in the Netherlands. I saw his work in the exhibition Twisted, at the Van Abbe, together with Michael Raedecker among others. Then it was clear that my work was by no means unique. Another reason to bid farewell to that style.”

But that is not entirely fair. “No, not entirely.” The question was: when did you first have that feeling. “That was indeed a few years ago, I think. At that time I was still making landscapes, more or less abstract with houses in them, painted in acrylics. I’d already been working on them for a while and they had precisely the atmosphere I wanted, dark forests, the absence of people, a lot of suspense. With those paintings I did sometimes think: now I’ve got it. Only, I had the nagging feeling that they weren’t really my own. That they were too similar to the work of others. And worse still: at a certain point I even started getting bored when I looked at them.” Did it take long before the boredom set in? “About a year. Gradually I began to realize that they were certainly beautiful, but that I couldn’t continue making them.” Was that difficult to accept? “Yes, absolutely. Because I initially thought that that atmosphere was my content. I have always loved westerns, Sergio Leone, the emptiness in a film like Paris Texas or Duel, the first film by Steven Spielberg. The feeling that you’re driving there, on this vast plain. You’re minding your own business and sud-

Is that difficult, such a break? Game chuckles. “I did already have some experience. I often had periods of searching, in which I tried all sorts of forms. I have made cartoonish paintings, abstract masses of paint containing texts or anagrams… But after a while, boredom always set in. This also made me seriously doubt my work, a real overpowering, nauseating uncertainty. With the result that while preparing a new canvas I was already crossing off all the things I could not do. With hindsight I just set the bar too high. And sure enough, at a certain point I did ask myself: is there still something I can add with my work?” And? “Well, it was true that those ‘atmospheric landscapes’ always contained things that kept me thinking. So it irritated me immensely that they were painted rather flat, that nothing happened in the paint. And it also bothered me that I was never able to make a painting that was predominantly light.” Those are fairly technical considerations. “Yes, but technique is important to me. Always has been. I think that you have to take technique seriously as a painter. I have also experimented a lot: with all sorts of paint, with medium, with fine and flat brushes… In genuinely good


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interview.

paintings, the form and content always reinforce one another.” Did that eventually lead to the new works, after the atmospheric paintings? “Yes, that was actually what I wanted to say. I already had those considerations, that searching for light, that seeking an appropriate technique. Eventually I arrived at enamel paint, white and beige, with which I just ‘dribbled’ something onto a canvas on the ground. That produced a sort of balls, nuts, eggs, call them what you will. I coloured these ‘volumes’ in further with red, and saw immediately that something happened. I left that canvas alone for a while, after which I noticed that I could complete it very easily: by painting a kind of shadow in behind the forms. Suddenly it was good.” How could you be so sure? “Actually I wasn’t sure at all. But that was also because I had sent it almost immediately to the gallery, who promptly sold it. So I was left with a strange feeling: I had made a painting that seemed really essential for my development, but I could no longer look at it. After that I continued with this technique: first large blobs of enamel paint that I allowed to spread out on the canvas. Then I put a border around them and subsequently I applied acrylic or glass paint over that for as long as it took until something happened.” Did you immediately have your own criteria for that? “Well, criteria... I am fond of those floating forms, those blobs, forms that give you the feeling that they don’t necessarily have to stay as they are permanently. At the same time I give them their own position and their own moment by putting a shadow underneath them. Is that what you mean? Not exactly. Let me rephrase that: why was this the image that suits you, the one you wanted to show? “Mainly because I noticed that I had found a form that was entirely my own, which could not be compared to the work of others. But admittedly, when I had been doing this for some time I did begin to miss a certain concreteness.” Were they too abstract after all? “I noticed... Look, as a painter I do want to create a world of my own. But I also want to have some idea of what that world is about.” Do you want to control it? “Yes. The vagueness had to go. At the

same time, I was also afraid that I would again be unable to take it further. But that was the strange thing: this form proved to offer me very many starting points. My fascination for the deserted landscapes. For comic strips. And it continued to expand. For example, at a certain moment I came across woodcarvings from Oceania that play with abstract lines in exactly the same way. That gave me a feeling of enormous wealth, of possibilities.” For me, your current work with the abstraction, the blobs, that floating feeling, mainly conjures up associations with science fiction, with space, with TV series such as Dr. Who perhaps. Are these associations that you yourself strive for, or was it more the case that you discovered a form of your own, and didn’t mind those associations? Game chuckles. “Let me put it like this: I was aiming for those associations, and the material proved amenable.” That sounds as if you don’t actually dare to say that you have adapted the content to fit the technique. “No, it’s not like that. Emptiness, atmosphere has always been important for me, in every phase of my work. But it also seems that as a painter, you need to have an affinity for a certain material, a method of working, to enable you to remain sharp and decisive. As in these paintings: they consist of all sorts of different materials. Without a proper command of these, I never could have made them.” What would you most like the observer to see when he looks at your work? Game thinks for a while. “Ultimately I want them to become fascinated by something they see in the painting and then to ask themselves what that is. To go on a voyage of discovery in the world of my painting.” But do you yourself have an idea about that world? Take those large objects that appear to float in the space. They do look something like spaceships with holes in them. “It’s funny that you experience such a feeling of space. I hear that more often, but if I’m honest: for me the space on the canvas is no deeper than three or four centimetres. You can only just see behind the objects. I see them more as settings, a little like the photographic screens they used to have at the V&D, in front of which they made portrait photos. A sort of decors...” For what? “Evidently for the lunacy that further


.interview

haunts that world.” Is it lunacy? “Well, yes, orchestrated lunacy. Ultimately I do remain in control.” When you name your influences, two elements keep returning: emptiness, desolation, and comics. How important are they for you? “Comics were my first great passion. Lucky Luke, Tintin, you name it. I also had a fairly impressive collection of albums. You can still see that in the basis of my work: when I pick up a pencil or a brush, I immediately draw a line. That emptiness, the feeling of wanting to lose myself can undoubtedly be traced back, in part, to comics.” Is your work escapist? “What do you mean by that? That you depict an alternative world in which you might prefer to live than here in this one. “Well, no, I certainly want to be here, it’s not as bad as all that. I just want to show things of value that originate from my fantasy, from my personal fascinations.” Then why don’t you paint people or figures? “I believe that I do that.” Do you mean that you see those apparently abstract forms as a sort of creatures? “Err, yes. Lifeless creatures though.” Do they have a character? “Yes, absolutely.” Do you also work on them as such, as creatures with a character? “That is actually one of the hardest things. They often start out abstract, but a form soon wants to take you in a certain direction, call it the expression of the form. Such a form can be cautious or woeful. I do realize that this sounds absurd, but it returns time and again. Also, I always feel the need to... to see eyes.” Eyes? “They are always there. The circles. I add them even if the form does not automatically call for them. Lifeless creatures with eyes, that’s what they are.” I have to admit I never saw it in those terms. “But that doesn’t matter. I even rather like it.” Then that gives you a problem. “Yeah.” Game laughs. Anyway, if they are creatures, then how far do you go in that? Are they, for instance, people that you know?

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“No, not that. I see them rather as masks, as personae. In fact, I’d prefer them to be both creatures and abstract forms; in the ideal situation the two are of precisely equal strength and reinforce each other.” Do you have to do your best to ensure they don’t look like masks? “No, for me it actually works the other way around. First I make a basic form and then I think: do I see an eye somewhere? So I look for one and accentuate it. That is always one of the most exciting phases in my work. Because when I see the eye, the form is also determined; then the painting has found its anchor. That is fairly crucial.” Does this working with masks, eyes, and personae also indicate a desire to put ever more of your own personality into your work? Or let me put that another way: when I listen to you it seems as if you’d actually like to make far more personal work but that you don’t yet dare to? “If you want to put it like that: it’s true. But it’s not just about daring to. It is also about phases in my work, about a development whose consequences I cannot yet foresee. I do understand that people sometimes think I make strange, otherworldly things, and I think that this personal development is a good answer to that. On the other hand, I also ask myself how one does that; make personal paintings. Must I then incorporate my private life into my paintings? Become a chronicler of my own life?” Well, Philip Guston’s late work is often about the fears he had, his struggling with Judaism. Those are certainly not ethereal themes. “No, but Guston was already a good deal older and more jaded. I’m simply not at that stage yet.” What about that longing for emptiness and autonomy then? “You can also see the blobs, these creatures, as if they were fortresses. They are separated from the outside world by thick lines of enamel paint, while on the inside freedom prevails.” With a variation on Slauerhoff: ‘only in my paintings can I live.’ Game chuckles. “Yes, indeed. To be honest: I would like to live there, in the world of my paintings. It looks like a wonderful place. Only I hope that you can paint there.”


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make room for the blessed. 2005


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shade for the masses. 2005


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city limits. 2006


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masters of reality. 2005


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bottle neck. 2006


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reality check. 2006


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Agreeing To Disagree. 2007


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empathy. 2007


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frantic. 2007


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bouncer. 2007


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promise. 2007


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enigma. 2007


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mallemolen. 2008


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lull. 2008


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trust us. 2008


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Kik Vurroe. 2008


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Berserkergang. 2008


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thonopo. 2008


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tweekland. 2008


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keet. 2009


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dialoog. 2008


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diafragma. 2009


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volvo. 2009


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totally together. 2009


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looker. 2009


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ronin. 2009


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sanctuary. 2009


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list of works.

Make Room for the Blessed

/ 2005 170 x 200 cm Mixed media on canvas Collection Alexander Ramselaar, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Shade for the Masses / 2005 200 x 180 cm Mixed media on canvas Private colletion, Haarlem, The Netherlands

City Limits

/ 2006 200 x 180 cm Mixed media on canvas Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Masters of Reality / 2005 236 x 201 cm Mixed media on canvas


.list of works

Bottle Neck / 2006 61 x 65 cm Mixed media on canvas CBK Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Reality Check / 2006 60 x 60 cm Mixed media on canvas

Agreeing to Disagree / 2007 105 x 100 cm Mixed media on canvas

Empathy / 2007 50 x 48 cm Mixed media on canvas Private collection, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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list of works.

Frantic

/ 2007 51 x 45 cm Mixed media on canvas

Bouncer / 2007 145 x 195 cm Mixed media on canvas

Promise / 2007 65 x 75 cm Mixed media on canvas

Enigma / 2007 72 x 71 cm Mixed media on canvas Eneco Art Collection


.list of works

Mallemolen / 2008 198 x 210 cm Mixed media on canvas

Lull / 2008 200 x 145 cm Mixed media on canvas

Trust Us / 2008 240 x 200 cm Mixed media on canvas

Kik Vurroe / 2008 120 x 130 cm Mixed media on canvas

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list of works.

Berserkergang / 2008 200 x 270 cm Mixed media on canvas

Thonopo / 2008 60 x 60 cm Mixed media on canvas

Tweekland / 2008 195 x 180 cm Mixed media on canvas

Keet / 2009 60 x 50 cm Mixed media on canvas Private collection, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


.list of works

Dialoog / 2008 200 x 175 cm Mixed media on canvas

Diafragma / 2009 60 x 50 cm Mixed media on canvas

Volvo / 2009 195 x 180 cm Mixed media on canvas

Totally Together / 2009 220 x 200 cm Mixed media on canvas

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list of works.

Looker / 2009 70 x 60 cm Mixed media on canvas

Ronin / 2009 200 x 175 cm Mixed media on canvas

Sanctuary

/ 2009 200 x 250 cm Mixed media on canvas

All drawings: 2009 65 x 50 cm Watercolour on paper


.biography

.109


Cool It Too, De Boterhal, Hoorn

Collectie Vrieskoop, Artis, Den Bosch

Uitgelicht Startstipendia 95/96, published by Fonds BKVB

Cool It, Artkitchen gallery, Amsterdam

Uitgelicht Startstipendia, KunstRAI, Amsterdam

Lagoon 3, Het Consortium, Amsterdam

Drowning by Drawing, ‘t Hooghuis, Arnhem

Murder brings a touch of colour, Academy for Art and Design, Den Bosch

Uitgelicht Startstipendia 93/94, published by Fonds BKVB

LAKgalerie, Leiden

Uitgelicht Startstipendia, KunstRAI, Amsterdam

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110. biography.

Serge Game (1970), The Netherlands Lives and works in Rotterdam Education: 1989–1994 Academy for Art and Design, Den Bosch, The Netherlands Overview: Solo exhibitions Group exhibitions Reviews/Essays Publications

1995 1996 1997 1998


Interview in Kunstbeeld magazine #11 by Angelique Spaninks

Catholic Block, TENT, Rotterdam

So What, galerie Gist, Brummen

Review in Rotterdams Dagblad by Sandra Smets, 03-04

Chronicle of the Not-knowing by AndrĂŠ van Dijk

Figures in fields, Loerakker gallery, Amsterdam

Presentation at KunstRAI Amsterdam, MKgalerie

Veust, Archipel, Apeldoorn

Binnenwereld/buitenwereld, de Krabbedans, Eindhoven

Presentation at KunstRAI Amsterdam, MKgalerie

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1999 2000 2001 2002


Serge Game Paintings 2005-2006, Veenman Publishers

Review in Leeuwarder Courant by Susan van den Berg, 23-12

Ministry of Internal Affairs by AndrĂŠ van Dijk, 22-07

Presentation at Artforum Berlin, MKgalerie, Duitsland

Presentation at Art Amsterdam, MKgalerie

Review in NRC Handelsblad by Sandra Heerma van Voss, 14-10

Basics, Gist gallery, Brummen

Oil on hood revisited, Kunstenlab, Deventer

Catholic Block, TENT, Rotterdam

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112. biography.

2003 2004 2005 2006


Presentation at Art Rotterdam, MKgalerie

Review in Lapiz, Revista Internacional de Arte by David Ulrichs, no. 250/1, February/March

Presentation at PAN Amsterdam, MKgalerie

Nieuw, CBK, Rotterdam

What’s Up magazine # 0

CODE magazine #7 summer/autumn

Soakers, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Veenman Publishers

Blend magazine #22 by Tina Evers, mei

Review in Friesch Dagblad by Rients Kooistra, 03-01

Soakers, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Presentation at Art Rotterdam, MKgalerie

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colophon.

Author introduction. Colin Huizing Author interview. Hans den Hartog Jager Graphic design. Katja van Stiphout Photography. Pieter Vandermeer (pages 14/16/18: John Stoel – scans: Hilko Visser) Lithography and book production. Kees Kuil Translation. Mike Ritchie Printing. Thieme Amsterdam Binding. Callenbach Van Wijk BV, Nijkerk Thanks to. Anneke Smulders, Masja van Deursen, Silvia Vergeer, Martijn van Egmond, Katinka Hormes, Bert Dijkstra, Colin Huizing Special thanks to. Katja van Stiphout and Pieter Vandermeer Copyright / all rights reserved. the artist and MKgalerie Rotterdam/Berlin This publication was made possible by.

Published by. post editions, rotterdam 2009 www.post-editions.com ISBN. 978 94 6083 014 3 (English edition) 978 94 6083 013 6 (Dutch edition)

www.sergegame.com www.mkgalerie.nl www.mkgalerie.de



Reality Check