A white surface: and on it, shifted slightly to the right, a small blue one. The white form comprises one half of a dust jacket, yellowed along the edges. The blue surface is a folded sheet of paper which, once unfolded, reveals a structure of faded edges where folds were made. On the white surface, the blue thus seems to be a window, the access to infinite space.
This small collage by Dieuwke Spaans (Rheden, 1973) is one of the cornerstones of her solo presentation ‘If it were voices instead of colors’. In recent work Spaans has been seeking, as she herself describes it, ‘the essence’. The work is emptier, quieter, more contemplative and sensory, yet even more emotionally charged than previous work. The focus has shifted from nature to form, construction, repetition, to traces of human presence expressed in structure. The suggestion of spatiality, linked with an emphasis on material and texture, betrays her way of dealing with the idea of beauty.
One of the larger works in Spaans’s exhibition has the structure of a landscape: light, empty surfaces above and all sorts of black-and-white hues—segments of photographs showing natural scenery—in the lower half of the image. Here too, just as in a number of other works, color is present. Along the horizon line, a bright blue disintegrates into shades of greyish blue.
Spaans creates collages that are made up of what she calls ‘everyday images’. Those everyday images are existing images: pages from books, empty pages—in every possible gradation of white—photographs, writing, fragments that she snatches away from their original contexts in order to use them as building blocks for a new reality. In a casual manner she consequently associates her work with the contemporary discourse in which the current relevance of tradition is sought.
In a letter dated 8 april 1907, from the island of Capri, in the Gulf of Naples, the poet Rilke writes to his wife Clara Westhoff about spring— and about the anticipation of it. Actually, it has already arrived in the form of a promise, a possibility. And then he goes on to describe the colors of flowers being manifest already, as “everything is blooming most recklessly. If it were voices instead of colors, he writes, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”
The title of Dieuwke Spaans’s exhibition is, in her view, about the promise and the power of potential. The ‘shrieking into the night’ to which Rilke refers has, in her case, to do with the full range of choices and options that she encounters while creating her collages, and which she wishes to be free to examine without pinning her images down to a single context.