"To give the mundane its beautiful due"

"To give the mundane its beautiful due" (John Updike) an exhibition by Bob Negryn I was lucky enough to see while I was in Holland. It is an exhibition that challenges our ideals of beauty and usefulness of objects. many of the items Bob Negryn used in his images are things we have often used once and then often discarded as useless. They had served their purposed, as the liquid they contained inside have been consumed, or the flowers were once fresh and beautiful. Using these items as vases, at times in combination with fresh flowers, they suddenly are repurposed.

They have become useful again for a moment in time

. bob-negryn-in-het-stedelijk-museum-kampen Bob Negryn. Tulip No 38. Laminated photo 120x80cm, 2012

I walked around this exhibition with my sister, who is not an artist, she mentioned afterwards that she got more out of seeing it again with me. She had not thought of the combination of used plastic bottles and beautiful, fresh flowers. Or questioned what the bottle shad once contained and had been used for.

Bob Negryn states that in his "pictures I give the objects the attention they deserve. I make the objects in my photos larger and more important than they are to emphasize our dependency on them, both practically and aesthetically. Practically in our daily routines and aesthetically by their shape and color are they witnessed our uncontrolled weakness and love for the artificial. The pictures are staged, but not artificial. Obviously, and particularly at a time. What we see, how much attention we pay to what we see? An artwork is a proposal, an unanswered question, also for the creator. There comes a time when utensils lose their ordinariness, have another meaning, becoming something else, bigger, more mysterious, abstract! A play of light and dark, color and texture, scale, volumes and voids. Voids which can be filled with content. How do we seek our happiness in the large amount of insignificant objects around us. Almost drowning in the plastic soup of our existence. The provocative beauty of tulips and plastic bottles take us out of our daily drudgery, allowing us more appreciate everyday life."

The images certainly were large, demanding of our attention. And they did question our attention to details, every day details, what we use, and then discard. What was also in these works was the combination of ephemeral nature with manipulated nature. Real, fresh flowers were placed into vessels that had been created from natural products. But one will wilt and decompose, within a short time, to become part of nature again, while the other will take decades before it to once again becomes part of the natural cycle. It raises the question: On which do we place more value? Does representing them like this add value?

Posted by Elle Anderson

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