Discover Eindhoven, The Netherlands in this catalogue of creative happenings

Unforgettable – Julie Verhoeven

November 19th, 2009

Filed under: ART & DESIGN

Nice line drawings

What’s interesting about contemporary art is that it takes all sorts. What’s interesting about MU is that it also takes all sorts. There’s a place for contemporary art expression in Eindhoven, and MU seemed to be the right spot for Man Enough to Be a Woman, by Julie Verhoeven (1969, British) . The opening on Friday 13 November, despite the date’s spookier associations, seemed a success. There were lots of people, and the right sort of people. And, as with many openings, there was lots of chat, but not so much talking about the work that we were invited to celebrate. 

In the opening words, the work of multi-disciplinary artist Julie Verhoeven’s was described several times by Francesca Gavin, to be “break-away”. Special hand-painted editions of Verhoeven’s book, Bit of Rough, containing Francesca’s foreword were available for purchase. Fair enough. I was stimulated about being able to explore the space, to be wowed and to be pushed to see fashion and art in a way I’d never imagined. 

I did a round. I was disappointed. To be more precise, I found it incoherent, messy, unnecessarily complex. There was a ceramic display, a wall of collages, trays of illustrations, a Victorian boudoir even. I struggled to find meaning. At the same time I was intimidated by the artist’s reputation, cringing as all good Australians do about the parochialism of wherever they are – this time, Eindhoven. I was struggling between finding what I liked, what I should like, what I understood and what I should understand. 

Another round through the installation. Ah. I was gladly able to pinpoint what I liked. Her illustrations are whimsical yet strong, and I liked how she couched her work in a sea of 80s and 90s décor and music. I enjoyed the challenges she made of what it is and we do to be women, of femaleness. I liked the forced union between punk, Victorian delicacy, pinkness. But what did the toilet reference mean? Why was there loo paper used as streamers? I hated how some of the sculptures looked obviously papier-mâché-like, even though that was probably what she was aiming for. Could she could have said the same thing with less crowdiness and visual noise? I felt almost ill from my failure to really comprehend. Was I just upset because I feel I am not qualified give my opinion? 

Ahah. Now, that’s what I liked. Julie Verhoeven’s work asked me questions. Pfff to answers! Why did I or didn’t I like it? What does all this mean – to me? Why can I hear Meatloaf ? 

As with most things, one must try to understand the others intention to align meaning in its reception. There wasn’t much information at the opening to tell me, so afterwards I went to the trouble to find out more. First up, it took her five years to research her work into Man Enough to be a Woman. It makes direct reference to the story of rock, punk, drag and transsexual Jayne County. Adrogyny and confused sexuality come to mind when one looks back to the installation. The exhibition is a combination of pieces from Verhoeven’s exhibited works in the past five years as well as some works not yet shown. I respect all of that industry. 

Oh, such freedom! That’s what I liked about this exhibition. No, I didn’t actually like it much, but if the subject was  to confuse and confront, it had that impact exactly. It still trails around in my mind. So, thank you Julie Verhoeven. You add texture to the fabric of life, which is after all, a series of unforgettable encounters. 

Man Enough to be a Woman @ MU opened 13 November and goes until 30 December

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