BIO / Selected works / catalogue
Just Quist (1965, NL) may at first sight appear to be a different sort of artist. Indeed, when it comes to the artistic techniques and materials he employs in his work, he is quite different. Quist’s practice predominantly (though not exclusively) engages with the medium of painting and reflects on its history. But whoever looks at his work intently, quickly discovers that Quist’s artistic practice is driven by more conceptual questions: through his work Quist at one and the same time critically interrogates the modernist (mis)conception of materiality and the unique way in which representation and the illusion of immateriality function in our contemporary post-digital world.
From Mondrian to Rothko, the modernist tradition in painting tried to execute an impossible double move. On the one hand, it tried to bring painting back to the materiality of painting itself, creating a form of painting that represents nothing but itself; and in doing so, it hopes to exude a purely painterly presence. On the other hand, however, this painterly presence is bent on transcending materiality rather than simply affirming it; instead of a pure confrontation with materiality, the viewer standing in front of a Rothko painting is enraptured in an almost transcendental aesthetic experience.
But how are materiality and transcendent experience reconciled? Aren’t they mutually exclusive? How does modernist painting deal with that glaring contradiction?
Well, it doesn’t. And yet this subtle contradiction has had a formidable impact on how we understand presence and materiality today - in a world dominated by social media and hyper- intensified self-representation. That is where Quist’s practice as an artist starts off. Quist uses the medium of painting to interrogate this paradox of materiality and representation, not just within the painterly tradition but in our social world and how it has been affected by the internet. The painterly and sculptural techniques he employs in his work are focused on highlighting that inevitable paradox of materiality and that still determines how we live in a post-digital world.
Quist’s use of glossy surfaces in several of his paintings, for example, is not just an intuitive aesthetic choice. Instead, it is a conceptual intervention that cuts to the heart of that paradox of materiality and representation: the glowing radiance of a glossy finish is the result of a material painterly procedure, but ironically it also gestures toward the idea of profane transcendence, representation and glamour that we known from so-called glossies, magazines that celebrate celebrity and leave us lingering for more of the same, and that has been transplanted to the glossy filters we employ on social media to enhance and enchant the images of our social lives. The glossy, Quists work suggest, always reflects the image of the viewer back – a feeble but unavoidable shadow of our own representation, of our own image, is always present in the glossy surface of the work.
Similarly, Quist’s works often uses words - not to communicate something, but to address the materiality of symbolic communication in post-digital times. The words found in Quist’s work make up slogans that provide the viewer with few clues or directions for interpretation; they create proper names that refer to non-existent persons (like ‘Rene Joffe’), they combine letters into words that do not seem to exist in any common language (like ‘schauw’). To these unusual procedures we can add the exceptional materials and shapes that Quist introduces in his paintings and sculptures, such as metal and medium-density fiberboard, and his conspicuous use of the frame and canvas stretchers. Materiality, Quist suggests, is inescapable but always on the run: representations and images always occur.
Quist’s conceptual take on painting and on artistic practice is not just a critical take on the paradoxes of modernist painting. Quite to the contrary, Quist’s work traces the way those paradoxes form part of a larger culture of representation that has come to dominate the way we present ourselves on social media and on the internet.
text by Bram Ieven