Abstract art does not appeal to me, or perhaps just a little.

Dull Mondrian, whose theosophical colour lines are supposed to exude ‘deep, cosmic meaning’; rebus painter Kandinsky, who tries to talk to me by way of ‘pictorial language’ consisting of canvas riddles; Rothko’s meditative colour blots… The little that pleased me was almost always related to the decorative function of a work of art, this in my immediate environment.

Sometimes, however, such abstraction actually intrigues when it calls the eye into a play with herself, thus stimulating perhaps one’s so-called ‘spirit’.


Peter Struycken

This silkscreen print is by Peter Struycken. I must have bought it some fifty years ago – at the front door. It was one of a set of prints in a large folder, offered for sale by an impoverished student of the art. Now I come to think it, given his age it might have been Struycken himself. The artist later got involved into ‘electrical light’, composing a visual comment on Skriabin.

The one shown here intrigued me, the others in the folder I took for granted. That in this case I’m mainly concerned with what intrigues, more than with the so-called ‘beauty’ of it, is evident from the frame. The picture is originally bigger than what you now see. Only recently I placed it unceremoniously behind a smaller mat, certainly not as Struycken ever envisioned. Some of its surface disappeared.

This is the only meaningless abstraction that I allow to enter my study. Or you must take the little thing that I hung under this Struycken to be the second one. But I consider them as one, together making for a provocative contrast.


In this case, however, we also see an example of something that one may call ‘signs’, with perhaps an understandable sense. A certain rebus quality cannot be denied, even if it turns out to be meaningless. Anonymous it is, the author at least unknown to me. I bought the little thing in its frame and never took it out of it. Perhaps it is signed on its back. Here it only emphasizes the utter abstraction of my Struycken.

Abstract art is easy art. After all, there is nothing left to say. These works acquire mythem status. They only intrigue: human as we are, they demand of us to ‘interpret’ them, even though there is nothing to tell. That is, one can tell almost anything about it – about its maker, about the technique used, about its social context and what not.

However, about what you see nothing is to be said. Thus, everybody can get along with it and talk around it. Also, from the beginning of the 20th century on, Modern people wanted to decorate their ever greater white walls.

And abstract art can also be ‘fun’, thus surprisingly and easily flowing over into Postmodernity. It remains easy art, art to babble about. It fits our conjuncture so well.

Sierksma 02/26/16 Haarlem


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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