Committed to Paper

20 years of correspondence between artists Elisabeth Koetsier and Manon de Roode

14.02 to 13.04.2014

They write each other about their interests, convictions, fears and drives. They have discussions, comfort, share and tell each other about day-to-day events and life in general. They talk about their work, its pitfalls, and their successes. By means of hundreds of beautifully decorated envelopes, the exhibition Committed to Paper shows twenty years of correspondence between visual artists Elisabeth Koetsier and Manon de Roode. In addition, autonomous work by both artists will be shown.

When they began their correspondence, Elisabeth Koetsier (1952) and Manon de Roode (1957) only knew each other’s work. Koetsier started writing because De Roode’s work appealed to her, and she was curious about the artist behind the work. Her need for contact and the desire to break out of the lonely existence of the artist made her write to Manon de Roode: “You look for a kindred spirit who knows what the artist’s life is like, someone who celebrates the joy of a successful work as intensely as I do, but who is also all too familiar with the disappointments and pitfalls.”

Although Elisabeth Koetsier and Manon de Roode both attended the Art Academy in Kampen and lived in Zwolle, they only got to know each other when they began their correspondence, which would last many years. Writing about their pursuits, interests, fears and opinions brought them ever closer. Elisabeth Koetsier: “The correspondence provides comfort and functions as a wailing wall. You do not only share the good things, but in difficult times you know that somewhere at sea there is a lifebuoy.” The beautiful envelopes and the actual letters show the intimacy between two complete opposites, with Koetsier sometimes using the French and De Roode the German language. Koetsier: “The comfort and sophistication of Manon’s drawings and illustrations; to me they are always luxurious presents that fall on my doormat!” For Manon de Roode, writing is a way of getting out of her studio and being in touch with a kindred spirit. Restlessness is also a motive, because writing provides structure. De Roode: “The curious thing about writing letters is that you spend time but actually also gain time. I do not feel any pressure or sense of obligation while writing. Writing these letters has been a joy for many years. It flows naturally, like ink from a pen. The envelopes express what mood we are in. To me it also confirms that we are still working, plying our trade.”

A correspondence that spans two decades obviously leaves tracks. Nicknames developed, for instance: Valentina Krekelova for Manon de Roode and Principessa for Elisabeth Koetsier.

Autonomous work

Elisabeth Koetsier’s work is best described as an exploration of materiality. Her oeuvre includes paintings, drawings and paper assemblies, object trouvés and textile. The materials chosen clearly show signs of wear, and Koetsier searches for new matter with these used materials: “I cause new materials, as it were. I want to reshape what I am handed. To do this, I look for contrary, ‘false’ combinations. My themes are always small and intimate. Usually it is about everyday things like earthenware, plants or flowers.”

Paintings, wall ornaments and three-dimensional objects made of textile, and mixed media make up De Roode’s oeuvre. With her work, she explores the mystery of the things around us and that of daily life. We are surrounded by connections that are not visible at first glance but do exist. Her paintings appear to literally lose their skeletons. Language as a means of communicating, but also the letters and their abstract forms are themes in De Roode’s work. De Roode: “I basically show stained, used and discarded rags that I literally and figuratively rewrite.” De Roode regularly uses German words and phrases in her work. This love of the German language stems from her early youth, when she lived in Germany for several years. “But more importantly, while writing I discovered I found the Dutch language too monotone, too flat. Almost like the country itself. German is elegant, soft but also brisk and direct.”

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