Piet Tuytel: 51° 34′ 4″ N 5° 4′ 29″ E, Museum De Pont, Tilburg, The Netherlands



March 21 – May 17, 2009

Some sculptures appropriate space, while others structure and define it. The works of Piet Tuytel (Alblasserdam, 1956) are among the latter sort. Tuytel likes the flat landscape of the polders, whose emptiness is made palpable by the occasional appearance of a farm or a power pylon. At times even those sparse elements are missing and you need—as he says—to start slamming poles in the ground in order to focus on something.

Tuytels sculptures involve that type of intervention. In order to give ‘shape’ to space, he makes use of existing objects. At first those ranged from pipes and tubes to bathtubs and chairs; later he opted for more neutral objects that were less charged with meaning. Over the past ten years, he has worked with construction materials such as T-bars and H-beams, heightening their spatial effect with the aid of color and a well-considered placement on a metal base plate. In De Pont’s project space this use of elementary forms expands to include a new element. The wall sculptures, to be on view as of March 21, consist of radiators, sometimes in combination with treaded aluminum plates.

The wall sculptures have the standard sizes of two types of radiators: long and narrow ones (50 x 250 cm) and square ones (90 x 90 cm). He shows a number of them from the front and others from the back side. With the connections for pipes and the attachment points for brackets being clearly visible, the radiators remain recognizable as such. As an artist Tuytel has always sought turning points at which the ordinary allows itself to be experienced in terms of art, but rarely has the existing object taken on its new role so matter-of-factly and serenely as it does here. The heavy and unwieldy radiators have been transformed into abstract fields in which light and shadow play a leading role. In a series of four, the strict vertical rhythm of the convectors is counteracted in a much less predictable horizontal pattern. What seems, from a distance, to be thin lines proves, on closer inspection, to be the frayed cuts of a power tool. The position, the number and the distribution of the incisions bring motion into the square field in various ways and cause the visual space to recede or contract.

In his intuitive search for rhythm, Tuytels takes an approach which hardly differs from that of an artist like Mondrian, but his concern for materiality is that of a sculptor. In the series of vertical wall sculptures, narrow radiators have been turned sideways and combined with aluminum plates. The choice of this material, used for such things as loading ramps, has been deliberate. Due to its raised surface, some amount of space remains between the radiator and the plate. And the slight curve caused by the rolling process gives the material a certain spatial quality. Tuytel exploits this by spray-painting the aluminum black or by polishing it to a mirror-like shine. The black or silvery color of the aluminum plate and the white of the radiator each have their own three-dimensional effect. Tuytel makes use of that in constructing the wall sculptures, in which he ‘stacks’ various spatial qualities. In others the dynamics between figure and ground are evoked through the use of plates cut in angular shapes. The visually expansive effect of these forms is further heightened by the bright red in which the plate has been spray-painted.

Tuytel’s wall sculptures attest to the intense observation of an artist who takes inspiration from the spatial dimension of landscape and translates this into a play of formal relationships. The precision with which Tuytels zooms in on his subject parallels his location of a point by latitude north and longitude west, manifest in the exhibition’s title 51° 34′ 4″ N 5° 4′ 29″ E: these are the coordinates of the project space at De Pont.