Jonas Lund is not a painter. Although in a few of his latest works painting plays a central role. There were the paintings fitted with a GPS-tracker. And of course, these paintings do fit all the characteristics of a painting. There is a wooden frame and canvas, there is color, actual paint even sometimes. But they are only brought into the market to track their movements. Going from one collector to another, being sold and resold and travelling all over the world. There is actually a website to follow all this in real-time.
Painting also played a central role in a recent gallery show in Amsterdam. But instead of just showing and following the paintings, this time he showed the whole process. Coming through the door you would basically enter a painters studio in full production. Paintings are scattered all over the space. During most of the exhibition time there was work going on. Not by Jonas Lund though, since the only thing he had to do, was sign the paintings. Assistants did all the rest off the work. They were hired for a small sum of money to produce successful paintings. To know what a successful painting is they were given a specially designed book by Lund. This is a 300-page instruction manual with mainly pictures of paintings by successful artists. The keyword here is “successful”. In this case it did not mean quality, it means: to sell well on the High Art collectors market. The manual also describes instructions regarding sizes and shapes, certain auction results, etcetera.
The interesting thing here is not that Lund is producing paintings like a small factory. That is actually a rather common practice of certain artists. Like I said before: Jonas Lund is not a painter. And by this, he does not produce any painting. The work seems to be more like a well-staged performance being played out by people who are more or less playing themselves. The paintings become a vehicle to create an image of what an artist practice, painters practice to be more precise, could look today.
This image is a rather sarcastic one. The role of Jonas Lund was to sign the paintings he found successful enough. So, also for this work there was a specific website. The name being the same as the title of the show: www.studio-practice.biz. When a painting was finished by one of the assistants, Lund would upload a picture of the paining on the website. A committee was assigned to advice him about the paintings and whether or not he would have to sign them as his work. The committee was compiled of several art professionals: artists, curators, writers and gallerists. They could freely comment on the paintings being produced but their comments are all in public. His assistants made ninety-three paintings during the exhibition time of which Lund only signed one. The rest got a big stamp on the back, which says: denied.
Scrolling through the paintings on the website, this seems a good decision. Some of them would definitely come close to contemporary painting. Mainly abstract and rather formal maybe, but still… Looking up close, most of them are actually well made copies. Not much originality found here. Just like cardboard trees on a theater stage they function well enough to convince as trees for the time being. But only within the context of the theater play. With the difference that in a commodity driven art world some of these paintings might actually survive. Trying to picture them as “normal” paintings under nice light on white walls, the question comes up: would we, under other circumstances, not have considered them as art?
The website is just as much part of the work as the physical installation in the gallery. Entering the website you see a camera shot of one of the four camera’s that are installed in the gallery. Here you can follow all the progress of the project 24/7 on a live stream. You can see the assistants working and visitors going in and out. Already mentioned is the comment section, where the advisory board can give their opinion on the paintings. Another section gives real-time updates on the status of the paintings. You can see the paintings, but also if they are signed by Lund or going to be destroyed. Published on the website is the full contract that the assistants had to sign when they started working for Jonas Lund. All of this implies a certain transparency. Like, if you would be able to see the whole work, from the front and the back at the same time. And not even just the work but also the whole production process, conversations about the work, what the aims are and certain factors that come in to play when producing it and of course the works itself.
But that would still consider the paintings as the actual works. And, for the last time, Jonas Lund is not a painter. His paintings are props. At the place where the work is actually happening, things are not so transparent at all. With this in mind, it is good to read the contract of the assistants. There is a rule, which forbids them to share any pictures of the work on any social media website. Given the fact that you could follow it all on a live stream, that seems pretty absurd. Beside that, all the advice from the advisory board was for nothing. Whether or not the board thought something was good, almost all the paintings were denied anyway. Upon a closer look, we discover four more paintings being signed. But his assistants did not make these. These were canvases, which were on the floor while the assistants worked on the “real” paintings and in the process sometimes, by accident, spilled some paint on them. This resulted in four “non-intentional” paintings all titled floor. But who would put painters canvas on the floor to protect it? It seems Jonas Lund planned a lot more things than one might see upon first glance. There might be a whole secret system behind all that transparency. Hiding under a magical invisibility cloak: you can see everything, that’s why you can’t see anything. Exactly these paradoxical aspects, which come into play when he investigates the conditions under which a painting is made, make the work so interesting. He might be a painter of some sort after all.