Pieter Laurens Mol

Franck + Schulte

Pieter Laurens Mol called his photo installation from the year 1980 Strijd tussen carnaval en vasten, (The fight between carnival and Lent). This 11-part work reveals the culmination of something this Dutch painter characterizes as highly significant: there are allusions to his homeland’s cultural tradition, which plays on the title of a painting by Mol’s compatriot Pieter Breughel; or the artist’s modellike appearance at the center of his piece; the theme of balance; and the issue of such art-immanent factors as time, composition, and interpretation. The photos, photo installations, and objects that Mol showed here were done during the ’70s and ’80s; they illustrate—pungently and sometimes humorously—his quest for unexhausted possibilities of describing a reality that is to be experienced as essential.

At the core of Mol’s art we find the question of how the artist sees himself. He presents himself vicariously as a seeking and doubting individual in Strijd tussen carnaval en vasten; or as a pugnacious yet ludicrous warrior in Vera Historia, 1979, an enigmatic being (by covering his face with a huge palette); or as a humble creature (by being photographed on his knees). In each instance, however, the instability, changeability, and presence of the given stance and role constitute a highly important theme. Mol displays a willingness to take risks and demonstrates a great precision in executing his works. These features help to make them authentic and truthful.

Mol also operates with ambiguity in Vera Historia, a cycle of nine photos issuing from a clash between irony and heavy significance. His heroic poses look silly within the context, for Mol appears as a modern Don Quixote, equipped with a wooden sword, a cooking-pot helmet, and a chunk of wood, mounted on the ridge of a small shed. The overlapping between cultural history and today concretizes and activates new, previously unseen pictorial dimensions.

Mol normally works with photography, which, however, ultimately serves him only as a means to an end. The arrangement of the individual photos and the titles printed as one panel in a group of works generate a complexity that lends a spatial presence to his pieces. Furthermore, some of his photos are worked on in such a way that they look like paintings by Dutch masters. In The Scale of Brightness, 1987, Mol combines a photograph with real objects. This piece, a memento mori, shows a skull lying on a table against a dark background. Seven pacifiers are added in a left-to-right diagonal line across the depiction. While the pacifiers could represent childlike innocence and a beginning, each is linked to one of the seven deadly sins. With irony and profundity, Mol describes the basic existential situation of humankind and, with his typical lightness, the hardness of life.

Peter Funken

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugrosthel.