About the work of Joke Frima.
Introduction by Paul Meeuws
from: “Joke Frima – Drawings and paintings 1986 – 1996.
Publication Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam, 1996.
“When Joke discovered her talent she also had an idea what she wanted to do with it. This double insight didn’t occur in a Dutch art school. She’d been to a few but never liked what was offered there.
Usually precocious talents find it hard to know what direction to take. They try various things, filling sketchbooks and canvasses. As is nowadays generally known, art students are permitted not to know what their paintings should represent. The academies hardly know either. Observational drawing, as it is formally called, is still in the curriculum, but as a mere step to artistry in which fidelity to nature refers to dedication to the artstudent’s own creative compulsion.
Joke had to travel all the way down to Florence to discover that for her drawing from observation was not only a means but a goal in itself. She was fascinated by what is generally known as realism: the ambition to transfer an image to canvas as precisely as the image on her retina. Under the tutelage of an ancient but very brisk signorina Simi she learned to draw the way Simi had learned from her father. Plaster feet, earthenware jugs, the human figure. She grew through practice , six days a week, six hours every day.
Those who dislike discipline might not take to Joke Frima’s work. Try comparing it to performing music. The pieces of Heller and Clemente are given brilliance in practiced hands that may peak to a level that shows us complete mastery of the medium. The road hither is long and narrow as every beginning pianist could tell you. In art it’s hardly different, although the path is less well-marked for a painter. He is, after all, no performer, and the chances of losing track are greater. A talent of Joke’s magnitude does not want to lose its way nor wander, however attractive the sideroads may be. She wants to get somewhere.
Anyone who thinks that the realist painter’s path is an easy one –“Well, he has the subject right under his nose, doesn’t he?”– has never taken thetime to really look. Take stones, not the crystalline gems sought by petrophiles, but those scattered on a gravel path across which we carelessly make our way. You have to drop to your knees and hold your face close to the ground in popelike humbleness, then you may become aware of what French poet Francis Ponge calls “Le parti pris des choses” : you are captivated by the object. “Everywhere where such multitudes cover the ground, their backs form a layer which offer neither foot nor mind an easy foothold.” What do stones tell us, and wherein lies their beauty?
Joke Frima has often painted. These
paintings form a modest, austere climax in her work. Modest because their simple shapes hardly reveal their astonishing age; austere because they deter the painter from displaying his virtuoso abilities. Their luster is weak, their hues fall within that autumnal, tertiairy area where colours almost have no name. They are so modest that their meaning lies in their multitude: gravel, rubble, concrete.
“Those unknown objects,” wrote Ponge, “lost without order in a desolation that is invaded by tall grass, kelp, old corks and jetsam – unperturbed under terrific atmospheric disturbances – witness mutely the spectacle of all the forces that course like the blind, out of breath from their mindless chasing after everything.”
Every stone, even the smalles pebble, once seen, becomes the stone of the wise. Painting such a stone may be seen as a sequence of meditative moments that will ultimately lead to the comprehension that there is something to learn from nature’s restraint.
Joke Frima’s paintings are not meant to please, as little as the nature she depicts is meant to please. She portays these places with great restraint, eliminating arbitrary selection in favour of a complete uniformity of shapes, their place on the canvas surface, even in her application of the medium, applying no blurring. All those charcoal strokes, apparently applied mechanically on the lawn immediately evoke an effect that recalls the delicate weave of tapestry.
There is a strange lack of hierarchy in Frima’s work: that giant of plants, the prostrate pumpkin plant, a full length corn stalk like a portrait of royalty, the droopy creeping ivy, the stones, the fruit, and also the nudes, erect, sitting, lying. Her Adam and Eve express nothing more than what their naked bodies evoke in the viewer. One could call them cosmorphic, meaning, equal to other creations of nature, however prominent they appear on the canvas.
*) Francis Ponge, In the name of things.
In her paintings human supremacy is a fiction. Frima’s realism is too explicit to allow for romantic drama.
She doesn’t present us with a lost paradise but only that what her astute eye discovers anew each day: nature on its own, not yet fallen prey to the display of our mindless pursuit. Paul Meeuws
from: “Joke Frima – Drawings and paintings 1986 – 1996. Publication Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam, 1996.