REVIEW | Tom Van Eynde: Some of Everything, A Retrospective
December 14, 2015
Tom Van Eynde: Some of Everything, A Retrospective
Linda Warren Projects
In The Ethics of Ambiguity, French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive.” For an artist who has been making and taking photographs for over four decades, artist Tom Van Eynde is the epitome of the man de Beauvoir describes, an enigmatic individual who beautifully translates his experiences in the real into staggering and delicious images ripe for discovery.
In his own words, Van Eynde reveals the one purpose of his photography: “to make simple, elegant images of things that interest me. Images that provide something that can be viewed, over, and over again, yet still make me want to go back and view them once more.” And while he concedes, quite honestly in fact, that he hopes his ideas translate to others; the reality is that the rewards are squarely for himself. Luckily, Van Eynde’s images of things also greatly interest me and I find myself coming back to them again and again and again. Whether it is his documentary-style images in Santa Fe Speedway and the even more provocative Photographers Welcome, or his untitled miniature panoramas from his No Info series, Van Eynde masterfully captures precise moments and images with breathtaking clarity balanced by striking and noticeable ambiguity. Throughout all of his oeuvre, he teases with how much to reveal and how much to keep hidden; and I find myself looking more intently, wanting more. In many ways, its all already here, its all in front of me just waiting to be seen; but how much and how it is interpreted is left solely to my discretion. Van Eynde’s desire to be as intentionally anonymous as the subjects of his work is very intriguing – I find it a pleasant surprise given the rampant narcissism of our current culture.
My favorite works, of this exhibition and of Van Eynde at large, is his series titled Nu Dutch: decadent photographic versions of Dutch Golden Age portraits from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Modern subjects of the artist’s choosing (typically family members, friends, or colleagues) are adorned with stifling, proper, handmade collars; each stiffly and stoically posed alone against a somber background. They are sophisticated, powerful, and beautiful. Antithetical to our current plague of photographing ourselves, Van Eynde re-ignites the power of the portrait – when having your image captured was a symbol of status and purpose, not a selfie in the mirror. The personality of each model comes through, both humorous and serious though many bear no true expression; each timeless yet decidedly modern at the same time. The crisp hyperrealism of the image contrasted with the forgotten fashion trends highlight the exaggerated tensions Van Eynde suggests: they are as much about the past as they are of the present, and the blurred areas between both then and now in both art and society. I find them utterly and completely compelling.
Images (from top to bottom): Nu Dutch Series: Ben, 2013, archival print in acrylic Plexiglass, edition of 6, 44.5 x 43.5 inches; Santa Fe Speedway Series: Sex Instructor, late 1970s to early 1980s, archival print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta Paper, edition of 6, 26.25 x 32.25 inches; Nu Dutch Series: Dan, 2010, archival print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta Paper, edition of 6, 28.25 x 26.25 inches (framed); and Nu Dutch Series: Ike, 2010, archival print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta Paper, edition of 6, 28.25 x 26.25 inches (framed)