Floor van Keulen

Nothing is certain in the drawings or murals of Floor van Keulen. Everything seems to be in motion, seems to loom into view, only to disappear again quickly. For Van Keulen process is paramount. The size of the work is of no importance: whether he is working on a small sketch pad or a large, blank wall, nothing in his drawings is definite at the outset. Dispensing with a working sketch or conscious planning, he changes his room-paintings even during the run of an exhibition. Suddenly new constructions, attributes, animals, figures, cartoons, or even abstract lines emerge, which can, the following day, be painted over yet again and so disappear. Action, the spontaneous gesture, is central to him, and any given brushstroke may alter the entire composition. The picture may extend across the wall and then, once more, come to an abrupt halt because he never works from the center.

Van Keulen started out at the end of the ’70s with his painting performances in front of an audience. In his Malaktionen (painting events), he produced a great many murals in museums, galleries, and foundations, which, because they were or are to be painted over, are temporal in character. These traces in space survive only in photographs.

Van Keulen’s drawings cannot be grouped under any particular style, although occasionally links can be made with the automatic writing pioneered by the Surrealists. He paints quickly and dynamically on the wall in short, fluent brushstrokes. The lines vary from thin, round strokes to thick parallel stripes, from fluid, streaming forms to more jagged, cross-hatched ones, sometimes rendered in thin pencil, sometimes in thick oil paint. Untitled, unframed Van Keulen’s drawings or room-paintings may start with a letter, a numeral, or an arabesque, out of which other forms emerge in an associative sequence.

In his notebook jottings, too, little scribblings surface, which as a whole form a unified entity. They range from figurative scenes and sketches for architectural projects to abstract linear sequences. In these mural paintings as well, the viewer must focus on the small detail or element in order to take in the whole, the metamorphosis, and the process of construction.

The range of Van Keulen’s motifs extends from formally or esthetically determined fragments that are close to grotesque fantasy figures, to machines, plays on words, and renderings of buildings. His infinitely varied subject matter makes for bewildering, imaginative picture-making.

Frank-Alexander Hettig

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.