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De Pont Museum dedicates its summer exhibition to the Pupil/Master project
Jolien Collen, Guilty Pleasure, 2013, gemengde techniek/mixed media, video door. Kris Van den Bulck/mixed media, video by Kris Van den Bulck, foto/photo Peter Cox.

TILBURG.- This year’s summer exhibition at De Pont is dedicated to the Pupil/Master project, initiated in 2008 by Zeus Hoenderop, founder and director of Kunstpodium T in Tilburg. With this project, young artists in their last year of art school are linked with each other and with a well-known contemporary artist in order to create a joint exhibition at Kunstpodium T. In the current academic year, the project is taking place for the fifth time. That has given De Pont reason to underscore the importance of this initiative. Of all the young artists who have participated in this project over the past year, ten have been invited to make solo presentions of their work in De Pont’s ‘wool-storage’ spaces.

Twelve art schools in the Netherlands and Belgium, 252 young artists, sixty-three masters, sixty-one exhibitions and fourteen ‘master’ interviews at De Pont: that is the impressive outcome of Pupil/Master activities over five years. In the present academic year alone, seventeen exhibitions were held between 1 November and 7 July in the building on Noordstraat, where Kunstpodium T is located. Each presentation was on view for ten days and is jointly produced by four or five young artists, who didn’t know each other prior to their participation on the Pupil/Master project. Together with artists such as Rob Scholte, Navid Nuur, Koen Delaere, Karin van Pinxteren and Maria Roosen, they conceive the concept and the form in which they wish to present their work to the public. The wide range of themes and the specific nature of each exhibition can be seen in such titles as Wall Invaders, House of Mirrors, Momentum, Raum and To Give You an Idea.

This year, too, the project began with inviting artists to adopt the role of Master for one year. In conjunction with this, the project group consisting of Zeus Hoenderop, project manager Marleen Hartjes and artist/annual master Iris Bouwmeester organized an introductory tour of the participating art schools. This gave the young artists an opportunity to become acquainted with each other’s work and their various school environments. After this they were divided into groups and linked with a Master. This was done with consideration for each person’s interest and qualities, in order to establish the basis for an inspiring collaboration and unique presentation. Then came the moment when the young artists themselves made their move; that set off a trajectory which depended very much on the dynamics of the group and the approach and input of the Master/artist.

The project’s name refers to a situation from a bygone age, when the pupil was taught his craft by a master until he could manage on his own. Since then the nature of the artist’s profession and the way in which art functions in society have changed drastically.

The decision to become an independent artist is no easy one. It was on the basis of that experience that Zeus Hoenderop began seeking, in 2006, ways to bridge the gap between the student’s period of training at art school and his or her subsequent life as an artist. This resulted in the Pupil/Master project, in which the joint exhibition is not only a separate aim, but also a means by which to generate dialogue between students and contemporary artists. All sorts of aspects involved in the making of art can come up throughout this exchange: from the artistic concept to the issue of what it means to be an artist, from the practical and organizational to the theoretical.

‘Young artists who have learned to invest fully in their own direction and in self-examination suddenly, on graduating, have to relate to a critical outside world which wants to know who they are in terms of social or economic worth,’ says Cornelie Samsom in Temp #15, Kunstpodium T’s magazine. Gone are the days – and one wonders if there ever was such a time – when the young artist could remain secluded in the studio until the world discovered him. And it has been several decades now since artists could, as a group, manifest collective ideals that were often articulated by a critic who shared their views.

Mutual contact and exchange continue to be essential, however. Meeting each other, working together, inspiring each other, developing networks and gaining visibility: these are major objectives in the Pupil/Master project, because in Zeus Hoenderop’s view they are vital to the success of a new generation of artists.

Since 2010 Kunstpodium T and Museum De Pont have been collaborating on a regular basis. Each year roughly five interviews with participating masters are held in the museum; someone from the art world holds conversations with them about their individual experiences as artists.

Hendrik Driessen, director of Museum De Pont, has been responsive to the Pupil/Master project and tries, when his schedule allows for it, to talk with the young artists about their work and their exhibitions during the special previews. With the exhibition in the ‘wool-storage’ rooms, a new context is now being added to that involvement. Following an initial selection by annual masters from the past five years – Guido Geelen, Michael de Kok, René Korten and Iris Bouwmeester – Hendrik Driessen, Zeus Hoenderop and Marleen Hartjes made the final selection of participating artists. Quality was an important criterion, but also the diversity of media and forms of expression.

The exhibition provides some idea as to the talent and the ambitions of a new generation of artists. Work by ten artists, given a platform for the first time at Kunstpodium T, can now be seen in the context of a museum. To the intentions of the Pupil/Master project, no greater justice can be done.

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