The Meta-paintings of Marianne Schuit?Meta-paintings.html

Meta-art: time management

                     in static art

Stepping a little bit aside from all the excitement the contemporary arts are causing, we see two artists from the past who have done what no one else has been able to do, not even the hugely gifted Picasso: catching time in paint.

Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, both from Golden Age 17th century Holland, have been able to catch the most dynamic of all aspects of our lives in static paint. Both in their very own right.

Worldly Rembrandt, lover of the dynamics of human life, caught time in an ever-flowing moment, a moment still showing a hint of the moment it developed from and already showing a hint of the moment that has yet to come. In his most famous Night watch the hand of Frans Banning Cocq, showing the troupe the way, does not stop moving towards the streets they will have to guard. It constantly keeps on repeating this striking movement in between the near past of the previous moment and the near future of the next moment. Time and again it sets the troupe in motion.

Domestic Vermeer has done exactly the opposite. He took, in his Milkmaid, his View of Delft, his Little Street, one ‘golden’ moment and brought it to a halt to never develop into a next moment anymore. Vermeer changed the temporality of one moment into eternity. There has been no previous moment. There will be no next moment. This is the only moment that counts.

No other master artist has been able to express anything like these two grandmasters have been able to express. And one wonders if there has been something, apart from their specific genius, that has caused these two men, geographically pretty close to each other, to develop this most crazy ability to express in paint what, actually, is impossible to express in such a static medium.

17th century Holland was a most dynamic country, in which the sciences, painting, literature, printing, warfare and trade flourished like never before. Amidst all these activities the search for a trustworthy way of measuring time – very important to be able to accurately determine ones position at sea - found itself among the foremost challenges. At the time Vermeer (most probably) painted his Milkmaid, 1658-1661, Christian Huygens had only recently developed the pendulum clockwork (1656). Like some of his English colleagues - members of a seafaring trades nation as well - the thought of measuring time in a proper way had fascinated him for quite some time. Is it possible that, maybe only in the subconscious of their genius minds, Rembrandt and Vermeer were also fascinated by time in such a way that it found a place in their art? However the Night watch was already painted in 1639 – 1642, accurate time measurement was already for quite a while at the top of the list of problems that had to be solved in the most dynamic 17th century Dutch – and English… -society.

It took more than 350 years before another artist was able to also catch time in a thin layer of paint. Very striking, this artist, Marianne Schuit, also comes from Holland, to be precise, from the city where Rembrandt once rose to international fame and fell to national shame, Amsterdam.

The paintings Marianne Schuit has been painting since about 1992 connect to the paintings of Rembrandt and Vermeer in the way they store something that, actually, cannot be stored by something as static as paint. Moreover, her Meta-paintings store something even bigger than the paintings of these 17th century grandmasters: running time.

The Meta-paintings of Marianne Schuit do not catch one perpetually flowing moment or one eternally conserved moment, they catch time as it actually goes by. Each Meta-painting being nothing but a huge set of ultimately contradictory fundamental phenomena, our brain is just not able to ever see it for what it truly is. At one moment we experience it in one way, the very next moment in yet another way. And this ever-changing experience will never stop anymore. And so, there is this awareness of an ever-ongoing development in what we experience from a Meta-painting: time is running in a Meta-painting like time is running in real life.

With this Marianne Schuit truly can be seen as the superlative of the two Dutch grandmasters from the 17th century. She has been able to take the strictly static character of painting a huge step further towards real life, while still using all the tools of ‘just’ painting. In this Meta-art is different from everything else that is happening in the contemporary arts, where the search for ‘real life’ is mainly taking place by taking pieces of ‘real life’ into art. Meta-art is artificial as can be – like the paintings of Rembrandt and Vermeer -, and still it approaches one of the fundamentals of ‘real life’ as if it was not at all artificial.

There is no doubt that Rembrandt and Vermeer were, again both in their very own right, the two most self-willed artists of the Dutch Golden Age. And there is no doubt that Marianne Schuit - whom I call Meta-artist, because her Meta-paintings express phenomena impossible to express in ‘ordinary’ art -, is the most self-willed ‘artist’ of our times. In her personal choices as well as in the character of her Meta-art, of the two she reminds us the most of Vermeer, ‘the sphinx’.

Looking at the illustrious chain of great Dutch artists from the past, who are, one by one, among the greatest that have ever lived and worked, Bosch, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Mondrian, it is very striking to notice that, next to their genius talents, the most eye-catching ‘feature’ of their personalities was a limitless self-willingness. The same kind of self-willingness – in some ways even bigger -, is what characterizes Marianne Schuit. It has prevented her from being part of any incrowd, but her Meta-art will prove to characterize our times in a much grander way than the art of any member of any contemporary incrowd.

And that, indeed, will only take some time.

Mick van Schooneveld, March 2014

Pictures: Top: To be or not to be, 2013 - Bottom: As time goes by, detail, 2013