Levi van Veluw at Rosenfeld Porcini, London W1

This is the first solo exhibition in the UK by a very young Dutch artist – van Veluw is still only 31. The Foundation includes drawings, sculpture and installation that ‘explore the mind set of a collector whose maniacal attempts to control his universe through collecting are frustrated by the plurality of forms inherent to the matter he is struggling to dominate.’

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You can see this most clearly in relativity of matter, 2015: a small room, dimly lit and rather spooky, lined with shelves bearing hundreds of pieces what seem to be the same material, in different shapes and sizes. Like a warehouse or an archaeological store. Some of them seem to be about to ooze from the shelves. No-one is sitting at the curator or collector’s table which looks abandoned, as though he has given up the task of trying to catalogue everything here.

It also made me think of the concept of ‘hyperfocus’, a kind of extreme concentration, which can be a symptom of psychiatric illness when it prevents a person switching tasks or activities. Here, the curator looks as though he (and of course it would be a ‘he’) would be trying to discern quite small differences between things in order to classify them. But such a system might be apparent only to the classifier; it has no practical meaning.

This and his previous projects are inspired by ‘the underlying tension between our desire for a regulated universe and the rational impossibility of total control.’ This is a subject close to my heart so I was not surprised that I responded to this show and in particular to the way this tension is made manifest in the work itself: the drawings and the grid structures are meticulous but empty, purposeless, as though all the capturing and classifying doesn’t lead anywhere. You are alone in a space filled with more of the same, sorting lots of the same thing, to no useful end. Instead of living.

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a grid for guidance II, 2016

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factory II, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The work below, grid strata II, 2016, illustrates all of this: it’s beautiful but fragile; it’s hyper-ordered but not every pigeonhole is filled; there are randomly distributed empty spaces as though the classification system hasn’t or can’t be completed; the material in the holes looks organic, not man made, and is in fact coal; coal represents the transformation of compressed plant matter over many millennia, a process man can’t control or replicate. But the outcome of the transformation is both precious and useful.

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