Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hendrik Kerstens: The distant view of the other

Hendrik Kerstens is one of those artists who have managed to develop a career seemingly concentrating on one subject throughout the years. In his case, the model has been his daughter Paula. How different is she as a subject because of being his daughter? Not very. Which is as powerful a revelation as any. After all, one would expect some closeness, some special insight. Nothing of the sort. What we get is a serious young lady, as serious now as she was on the pictures being only a few years old. A gaze that refuses to talk. Our only partner in dialogue seems to be the light that paints the face gently, yet at least on surface, without the love one would expect. We see all the Vermeers and other 17th-century Flemish painters participate in this creation, yet this, here, is darker, less inviting. It doesn't pretend that something can come out of this encounter. Nothing more than a picture, a gaze, a world that is forever there, for us to admire, but not to discover.