Clea van der Grijn

Cléa van der Grijn
City Arts centre Dublin 1996
OMAC Belfast 1997

Clea van der Grijn
A Painting Installation
Catalogue essay.
Medb Ruane 1996

Time is one of those defining concepts that seems clear until you start to think about it. For O.J. Simpson, time relates to proof, to alibi, to innocence - or guilt. If you're Julia Kristeva, time is defined by its cultural properties, about cycles and monumentality, about linear history and the push towards eternity. In Clea van der Grijn's project, time touches all those characteristics and still leaves room for exploration: time is a force to be reasoned with and examined, all the more to confound you by its refusal to be pinned down.

Van der Grijn's question seems simple enough: Is there a relationship between emotional time and measured time? Are human experience and pain so ordered as the rational divisions of a calender? Do mind and body proceed along parallel lines, or is REAL LIFE spiked with the tension caused because the two can seem so incompatible? From a visual perspective, the works choose a form that values order and arts traditional mind-set, but up close, the canvases and paper surfaces thrive on disorder, on cuts and scored markings, on emotional pleas at odds with the regularity and apparent coherence of their presentation.

Van der Grijn locates her inquiry over three constituent works. The large painting INCISION examines the expressiveness of traditional aesthetic dimensions: the 365 - part anti- sequence A TIME uses various paper fragments with their own innate symbolic sources to measure pain and exorcism; the mixed-media 65 part NEVER LOVED foregrounds text and language, communicating through sight and touch with the support of three- dimensional braille. Read as a whole, the three part project converts to a meditation on relationships, on the contradictions between loving ones self and loving another, on attempts to quantify experience from the perspectives of art and of hindsight.

the messages seem unequivocal; " i never loved you i only needed you i needed you to love me so that i could leave you" says NEVER LOVED. "cut me with a blade all the hurt at once then go" says INCISION, its planes themselves cut up, wearing language like battle scars- "skin", "tongue", "saliva"- all made precise by dates. But language scrambled in NEVER LOVED, its planes emerging from a handwritten web of private letters, messages puckered by printed text and given a palpably physical presence by the sculptural qualities of the braille. Different word groupings leap out from the background, their sense signifying different interpretations and messages, fragmenting even further all attempts of understanding.

Scattered through the series A TIME are the remains of victorian engravings about head, heart and locations of bodily organs - reminders of an age which believes that science could explain everything and ended up being destroyed by the consequences. Their confident rationality seems undercut by the chinese tissue papers used to construct this calender, indicating that some truths at least may become more accessible through the use of symbols and through the straight jackets of western explanations. The papers refer to the Chinese funerary practice of burning to ashes as a way of exorcising evil and releasing good spirits heavenwards.

Yet all these narratives start with out beginning. Language revolves like a old style vinyl scratched with repetition and stuck in the same groove. NEVER LOVED repeats itself to the point of obsession. Becoming less coherent with each renewed statement. Braille text made as tactile pressure points restate language's inadequacy where feelings are at stake, and underlies the hint that reason and feelings may well be blind to each other's needs. The words become a mantra, their truth ever more questionable with each new repetition.


September 1997. Winter Issue.
Ian Hill, Belfast.


The Old Museum Arts Centre, holding dock for van der Grijn's REAL LIFE exhibition is in an 1830's Greek Revival building.Clea van der Grijn, an artist with a long association with the Temple Bar Gallery has mixed with arts fashionable glitterati, designing fabrics and promotions for John Rocha's Louvre, Paris, catwalk show. There, handmade Chinese and indian papers were collaged for the invitations. She has also made a public art project commissioned by Temple Bar Properties in Dublin. For that she displayed 350 enlarged Polaroid snapshots of the areas shakers and movers (including, typically, herself), ranged at the corner of curved street, Temple Bar.

Here in OMAC's high ceilinged church like space, 36 seven x ten inch rectangles of various textured papers are ranged in nine geometric rows on the wall.

On each card, tinier squares of indigenous papers flutter as viewers pass. So, from the numbers of squares the deduction must be that this is a years diary, the artist's own, and to further engage our gossipy nature, every so often the pattern is broken with the insertion of a larger work on paper, each a screen print of head or heart from Grays Anatomy, scribbled over with the diarists intimate letters of love and lust.

Thus, whilst van der Grijn does not set out with Tracy Emin's intent to offer us chutzpah lists of who bedded who where and how, she proposes, that as a relay team, her heart and head each cling to passion and relay baton just too long.

On an opposing wall, the painting 'incision'. Mulit layered, multi pannelled, its surface sliced and bearing the text:
"CUT ME WITH A BLADE..." The regimented presentation of the calender/diary installation. A TIME, its geometric order is, in ways, a hallmark of this artist's work, is in this case is designed to contrast with the freehand disorder of the handwritten.

"Love me forever or fuck off" writes the artist. For herself? herself the exhibitionist? For her lover? Or for us?

And the squares of coloured chinese paper, fluttering? Prayers of hope perhaps, rather than for passion spent. Logic and sexuality at odds again. Was it ever thus?


Visual Art / Aidan Dunne.
Wedesday March 17 1996

'A Time'

Clea van der Grijn sets calender time against emotional time in a series of beautiful works on paper that visualise the complex layering of experience.'

Never loved

" i never loved you i only needed you i needed you to love me so that i could leave you " Van der Grijn's ' Never Loved' is a heroic feat of honesty and sheer hard work. Highly textured boards - very large and white - form the pages of this great book, whose only sentence is endlessly fractured, its meaning a slippery fish. As well as printed text, each board bears a large Braille letter created from halved ping pong balls. Tha Braille ( expressing emotional blindness ) reiterates the sentence. It is satisfying to the touch....this is hands on art.
'Real life', consisting of 365 coloured paper fragments surrounding drawings of the head, heart and brain, the organs of emotion. Dense handwritten text oceans the illustrations, reminiscent in its free wheeling impressionistic style of the work of Katy Acker, the avant-garde American novelist.


City Arts Centre,
Dublin October 1996
Arts. Adrienne Murphy.
Oct 1996.

"DELIRIOUS PLEASURE".........van der Grijn's willingness to expose her deepest fears, joys and needs, and so purge and discover herself through art, will strike a resonating chord in anyone who believes in the power of self expression.