Natural disasters or man-made catastrophes accompany our lives regularly. We are flooded by an unimaginable visual excess on a daily basis. Events from the distant as well as recent past are all documented and remembered.
Urban planning and the creation of a new urban tissue for places are a pressing need, all the more so in big cities that are faced with the urgent need to house massive numbers of people made homeless overnight. How does one approach such a plan? Where does one turn for inspiration and direction?
In Toward an Architecture, Le Corbusier maintains that “the plan is the generator. Without a plan, there is disorder, arbitrariness. […] The great problems of tomorrow, dictated by the collective needs, pose the question of the plan anew. Modern life demands, awaits a new plan for the house and for the city.”* One of the major points in Le Corbusier’s discussion is the gaze that the street opens, the view experienced by the flâneur walking in the city. Le Corbusier re-examines past plans for temples and cities, raising questions about the individual’s point of view in the new urban space and about the essence of the new gaze.
Amos van Gelder’s works offer a spatial gaze from a new perspective.
Imagine the world as a giant chessboard. Now imagine a tsunami suddenly washing it all away, whereupon the sky falls tranquil once again, as if nothing happened. Great chaos extends all the way to the horizon, from where you stand ad infinitum.
Van Gelder’s works describe that which is beyond the wave, beyond chaos. He composes a new world: urban landscapes which are both local and ubiquitous. His paintings portray the view of the passerby walking in the street, the observer in the urban space, from different vantage points. Partly abstract, partly near-impossible landscapes, the threat of destruction that might recur hovers in-between them. Van Gelder is influenced by forms and colors extracted from familiar worlds, such as the film The Matrix, Russian painter Kasimir Malevich or German artist Gerhard Richter—images etched in our collective memory. Van Gelder complements the picture for us, showing how the world will look after. Hinted letters hover in the air, carrying everything therein. Every combination is possible, and hence—every story may be told.
In van Gelder’s works, as after any instance of destruction, the sky remains unchanged. The monochromatic coloration resulting from the aforementioned giant chessboard, the board that experienced the chaos, “dictates” to van Gelder a lexicon of shapes and colors which he unfolds before us, sketching a new, futuristic world here on earth.
* Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture, trans. John Goodman (London: Frances Lincoln, 2008), p. 216.