What is the common denominator between an old tree-stump, a glossy photograph and a piece of foamed plastic? Wouldn’t you say there is hardly any? Artist Clemens Zalm takes a different view. He looks at these things as rewarding materials that he is able to combine in such a way that there comes into being under his hands an interesting integrated entity. So in his work it is possible that a glossy photograph with the image of a heaving sea has been brought together with a rough piece of wood in such a way that the grains resemble the waves and the waves the grains. Zalm is fascinated by organic and structural forms. Forms out of nature, like rock formations and rivers, but equally well by forms that are created in a factory, such a thing as foamed plastic. By detailed studies and by repetition Zalm makes his abstractions. “I’m not a photographer,” he says. “I paint with photography. ” One who examines his work does understand what he means. Photography is a means to tell a story such as a freakish formed trunk or a piece of plastic can do the same. It isn’t a literary or political story he wants to tell us. It’s all about the story of fragility of existence, the fact there is nothing that is fixed and that everything is in perpetual motion.
From the first decades of the 20th century many artists become aware of the fact thatit is not only the brush that can be used to create art. Everything in a manner of speaking can serve as material for particular creation. Subsequently everything revolves around the art of limitation. Looking how the correct deletion and the correct imagination can make your vision completely knowable. Because that’s what’s it all about with works of art that want to make the spectator experience something. After the second world war the artistic trends happened in rapid succession: abstract lyrical, geometrical abstract, conceptual art to name a few. The artist of this moment can draw on a rich recent past. The enormous freedom in choice of subjects can be a disadvantage for a less talented artist who cannot see the wood for the trees. A personal vision is in that case essential and artist Clemens Zalm has proved to have one: inspired by representatives of the above-mentioned artistic trends he had developed a completely personal conceptualization.
March 2011 Anne Marie Boorsma (historian of art)