Here I stand
On the lines in the paintings of Martin Scholten

Here I stand is a song sung by the daemonic female vocalist in the British band Skunk Anansie. At the same time it is the soundtrack for a video made by Martin Scholten. In a piece the length of a video clip, Martin Scholten shows a three-legged construction moving mechanically on a white plane. To the driving rhythm of the music, the construction draws an undefined variety of lines, marks and scratches. In addition to composing a centrifugal hyperkinetic whirlpool, the camera with its agitated movements shows short sequences of an energetically dancing artist. As if what we had here was a painter and his model. However, the model is a mechanically developed cosmography: complexes of aleatory lines that differ from each other in density, rhythm, thickness, impact, curve and colour. These drawings are quite often a reservoir of images for Scholten’s paintings. Arrangements of lines and interwoven lines are here translated as fragments into his vehement pictorial idiom.

What most links Scholten’s mechanical drawings and his paintings is the line or the related forms based on lines. Scholten guarantees the complexity of his paintings much more by means of the line (or lines) than the plane. The plane is only a painter’s surface, a basis (perhaps even a stage) to support the complex genealogy of lines. In painting colour is very often borne by the plane, but in Martin Scholten’s work it is once again embodied by the line. And this line is not a ‘point going for a walk’ as Paul Klee once called it. Scholten’s lines carry the information and pictorial logic of his paintings. They are lines like roads that transport the meaning and reading direction of a painting. In these paintings lines are rarely outlines. They have more to do with codes and with the stop-lines marked in the street. Or with the tags that are applied so quickly and give depth to every street scene. Scholten’s lines have imperative and authoritarian presence. They are controlled and successive bands of colour or irritating strips of colour. Lines as the geological indices of the stratification of a painting. Lines as streamers or as the protagonists in ceaseless and infinite labyrinths. They are the evidence of Scholten’s overpainting and shading.

Scholten painted the works in the Sambaelephant & Castle exhibition with brachial violence. As the exhibition leads one to suspect, the artist works in series on a group of paintings of the same format. And in so doing he often quotes from his own previous paintings. Details that yield a pictorial pregnancy are carried from one painting to another and once again painted out in another. But the artist does not quote only from his own work. In its details, the painterly relief of Scholten’s works reveals traces of the idiom of such artists as De Kooning, Kirkeby, Basquiat and Pollock. Scholten makes one pictorial idiom endure another. He mixes rhythms and movements into a pulsating, exploding painted body. The brutality and directness of the paintings do indeed confirm the title of the Skunk Anansie song here I stand. Martin Scholten is looking for a new way of handling the position and identity of abstract painting. He does this by means of a type of work that moves ambivalently between drawing and painting, and between fragmentation bomb and octopus.

Philippe Van Cauteren