What is art? What ought art to strive for? Beauty? Love for one's native soil and people? The most hyper-individualistic expression of the most hyper-individualistic emotion? The French underground star Anne Van der Linden silences pontificating guardians of good taste with a middle finger that artfully pokes around in open wounds.
Anne Van der Linden turned sixty this year, but the star of the French underground still makes the same brutal work as when she had just exchanged her protective bourgeois home for a squat and a tangle of incalcitrant, subversive ideas. This confrontation produced an artist who takes immense pleasure in poking around the open wounds of humanity and society with a well-practiced middle finger. And who exhibits dazzling skill while doing so.
At Sterput – by the way, what a blessing this place has become! – the French artist is not only presenting an impressive flood of older work, but also a series of new acrylic paintings and Indian ink drawings that expand on the idea of “the craft”. Most especially, this concerns the petits métiers that keep our everyday routine running smoothly. And she by no means shies away from the dark side of our human nature and rituals. Think Boschian insanity, but fleshier, more explicit and expressive, more vibrant, randier, and with (even) more of a focus on obscenity, sexuality, death, and (self-)destruction.
DIKTAT AND DEVIANCE
For example, you stumble across a milkmaid who squeezes the last drop of seed from men's bodies, or a plumber who optimizes his “pipework”, or a manicurist who – oh vanity! – brightens up a skeleton with a fun new shade.
Anne Van der Linden places herself right on the edge of the acceptable. And that's intentional. She deploys her radical freedom in order to challenge it, and she pays attention to whatever deviates from “normality”, to the unusual and outrageous because ultimately that also liberates “the other”.
In all its madness and revulsion, her work is surprisingly harmonious. It is meticulous in its visual detail and grandiose in the archetypes and allegories that it displays. It undermines that eternal and oh so prevalent power game, being in the right, and the diktat of what is normal and beautiful. That is why her work is so essential and so desperately needed, whatever the ever-unanimous, nonsense spewing guardians of good taste who want to safeguard themselves from any and all inappropriate influences may claim, while a world in ruins processes past us on TV and on the street every day. We're all swimming in the same beautiful shit. That acceptance germinates here. As does rage.