By Brain Fee
A 30-year veteran of Conceptual art has called Austin home since 2006. You may have met Claude van Lingen, the cordial gentleman with that almost unplaceable, soft accent at a local gallery reception. Thanks to Co-Lab Projects, who staged a mini museum-worthy retrospective of his ongoing series 1000 Years from Now, art-lovers unfamiliar with his investigations have an excellent opportunity to make up for lost time.
The exhibition is not chronological, instead emphasizing recurring themes across various media. However, benchmarks of van Lingen’s foray into prospective time—that which is imminent or curiously mutable—are displayed together in N Space’s back gallery, helping to put the artist’s process in order.
Van Lingen had a eureka moment when he relocated from South Africa to New York City in 1978. His earliest works, flexible polyurethane sculptures shown at major Johannesburg galleries and the 1975 Sao Paulo Biennale, were expensive to produce and ultimately impermanent, and they remained behind when he entered Pratt Institute to pursue an MFA. One fateful day at Manhattan’s Pearl Paint—gateway for countless artists—van Lingen forged a new path. “I came across the display of oil paints from different manufacturers across the globe,” he said. “The thought came to me that it would be interesting to take six of the same colors…from a number of different manufacturers and paint them on adjacent panels, and see to what extent the colors of the different companies were the same, or how they differed. This led me to think that, if I bought the same color from a particular company a few years later, would it still be the same? This also led me to think how colors would change over, say ten, one hundred, or a thousand years.”
Tragedy and loss are terrifying unifiers. It may occur in another part of the country or on the other side of the globe, but when depicted as raw wounds of ripped paper or silken landscapes of falling ash, we better discern their universality. The details may be abstracted into oblivion, but the pain and humanity behind them is something we can feel and just might be unable to easily forget. Even the passing of time itself is frightening, as we grow older in an uncertain now. Van Lingen embraces this, lining out orderly processions of subtle tonal shifts and imprinting the memory of an instant under countless pencil strokes. As his exploration continues, we would do well to slow down and take in 1000 Years From Now, reflecting on past experiences and an unknown—though perhaps far more shared—future. It won’t be a waste of time.
1000 Years From Now, Now, Now, Now, Now. … … … at N Space continues through January 31 and is on view every Wednesday (5:30-8pm) and by appointment.