Speaking: Maarten van Put of United Cowboys
Maarten van der Put (1961), together with Pauline Roelants, has been the artistic team of United Cowboys for 25 years. In addition to being a choreographer, Maarten van der Put is also a director and visual artist.
He studied visual arts with specialization in video and film at the Free Academy of Visual Arts Psychopolis in The Hague under former director Frans Zwartjes. He created video work for various companies and directors, including Ivo van Hove, Jan Lauwers and Pierre Audi.
What is not so well known is that Van der Put has photographed all these years. With the exhibition Now and Then he shows his photographic oeuvre for the first time. Initially he wanted to show an overview of his work, but in the end he opted for fairly recent work from the last five years.
The first introduction to the international dance company United Cowboys (based in Eindhoven) was during the exhibition The Secret Life of Materials (organized by Beeldenstorm | Daglicht and WARP) at the end of 2018. During the finissage of this exhibition, two dancers from United Cowboys made a performance.
As models, he always asks dancers from United Cowboys. “Dancers are used to expressing themselves in a physical language. They are physically adjusted. They are easy, pleasant people to work with. However, dance is not really the theme. The theme is the body, the human being. As well as clair-obscur. The photos are often experiments with light: backlight, reflection and unconventional light sources such as beamers and flashlights. Therefore, the shadow becomes part of the composition. The photos have not been edited or manipulated. I work alternately with focus and off-focus. I like off-focus because of its picturesque effect."
Two photos are an exception in the exhibition. They are shots of wrinkled posters. "Originally these were glamor portraits, but due to the weather, the posters started to wrinkle, whit the result that the effect is canceled out."
“There is a layering in the work, both literally and figuratively. Literally due to condensation and dirt on windows and Plexiglas, resulting in an abstract image when viewed closely. And figuratively through the truthfulness, wanting to understand someone's nature. The nude photos are not posed portraits in the usual sense. The nude is not shown in a challenging way, but is shown in a very natural way. There is no question of sexualization. I don't want to shock, I want to normalize the nude. After all, we are all called Nudeborn."
A video work is also part of the exhibition. Four narrow parallel strips zoom in on four models, in a way that the skin becomes almost tangible. The camera follows the models from toe to top, with the image alternately sharp and out of focus. And the models alternately showing power and vulnerability. This alternation of focus and off focus can be found throughout the exhibition, as well as the alternation of strength and vulnerability.
During the opening on January 17 and on Saturday January 25, continuous performances were executed by dancers from United Cowboys. At the opening a group performance, on January 25 a solo performance by the Irish Conor Thomas Doherty.
“We have a group of twelve dancers to work with and that we request on a call basis for the performances. They are often flown in from, for example, Berlin or Dublin.
The exhibition Now and Then by Maarten van der Put is on show at Pennings Foundation until February 9, 2020.
Finissage Sunday, February 9 from 15:00 to 17:00 with continuous performance.