JTF (just the facts): Published in 2022 by Libraryman (here). Canvas hardback binding (23.8 x 30.5 cm), linen thread binding, 48 pages, with 29 color plates. Authentic image on the front cover, with typography on the spine and tan foil back cover. Edition of 500, including a special edition of 25 copies signed and hand-painted by the artists. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)
Comments/Background: AWhen we settle in for the scorching days of summer, thoughts drift to exotic destinations and vacation possibilities. Few places are more idyllic than Hydra, the Greek island just off the Peloponnese coast. Its eponymous sources have long since run out but the appeal remains, attracting a steady pipeline of artists, drifters and expats since the 1930s. It was here that Leonard Cohen escaped with Marianne Ihlen to create some of his his best songs, and where Alex Jensen and George Johnston wrote famous novels. Henry Miller, Polly Samson, Roger Green and Charmian Clift found their muses in Hydra. The list continues.
In early 2020, the island attracted photographer Annemarieke van Drimmelen, painter Jasper Krabbé and June, their 2-year-old daughter. It was a lovely winter retreat, with no automobiles to get in the way of daily walks. But their getaway turned into something entirely different when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Much of public society closed and the young family found themselves unexpectedly trapped. It was a grim situation, but sheltering in place had its advantages. After all, there are worse places to be stuck than a beautiful Greek island. Even better, young June channeled artistic achievement into her parents. As van Drimmelen described the dynamic in a later Instagram post, “June showed us the miracle of just being present and seeing the wonder without having to create anything.”
Nonetheless creating things they did, with new works settling into regular collaboration – their first to date, not counting June. Van Drimmelen wandered the island taking monochrome photographs, then entrusted his prints to Krabbé, who added his own soft-hued abstractions to their surfaces. “Because we worked on this together, we had to ‘open up’ the way we work and let the work evolve,” they told the the wall street journal. “We had to let go of any preconceived idea of what the work would look like. We hope we have done justice to the uninhibited and wonderful world of June.
Their recent monograph June brings together twenty-nine of the resulting works. “Wondrous” is an appropriate label. Most are born in Hydra in 2021, but they extend into early 2022 and other locations: Taos, Santa Fe, New York, and Tulum. These places may not have much in common geographically, and their vernacular features are subsumed by abstraction and difficult to identify in the book. But it’s fair to say they share a spirit of escape and renewal, powerful tonics during lockdown. At the center of it all is June, who receives a heartfelt cry from her parents in the colophon: “Thank you for showing us the world in its purest form.
Although she is the central theme of the book, June herself only appears in a handful of images. She is shown on white mortar pavers in an early photograph, her figure overexposed and obscured behind loose wiring. If the representation is rather empty, Krabbé has filled in the blanks with his own overpainting. But instead of adding information, it negates it with whitewashed strokes. The figure of the child is fleshed out a little more in two successive images. Her solitary hand on a windowsill signals youthful curiosity and the boring bustle of an Aegean holiday trapped inside. On the following page, a beautifully lit nude alludes to a quiet early childhood and the syrupy rhythm of summer. Sigh… just another calmed day in pandemic heaven. A final image of June playing with a woven basket, highlighted with a subtle touch of green paint, and that’s it for her.
She may not appear beyond these four images, but June’s spirit runs through the entire book. At the most manifest level, it takes the form of infantile forms. Van Drimmelen anthropomorphizes found objects into happy faces and animals, while pointed sun figures join the fray here and there. Krabbé’s occasional texts fit in perfectly, handwritten in loose, childish handwriting. Whether painting cursive or colored fields, his brushstrokes have a playful vitality, refusing to stay within lines. A two-page diptych towards the end springs forth with whimsical exuberance. The same photograph is repainted twice. It shows a man seated on a bench, variously decorated with orange, green, pink spots, and a poetic phrasing: “People were gone, the streets were empty, just the wind off the island and we…“A photo of a garden overgrown with weeds is attractive, just like a cat sunning itself outside a window. It’s the doldrums of confinement seen through the eyes of a toddler.
There is a natural tension in all repainted photos between the fantasy world and the so-called real world. Paintings can sweep away in any direction in the blink of an eye, while photographs are usually limited to what was in front of a camera. Anyone who experiments in this field – and there have been many, including Gerhard Richter, Asli Özcelik, Viviane Sassen and Nobuyoshi Araki – is bound by these principles and precipices, and van Drimmelen and Krabbé are no different. But in the prism of childhood, they may have found a workaround. In two-year-olds, observation has not yet divorced imagination. The pictures in June are primordial and dreamlike, floating above the heavy weights of the documentary.
It could have been the thinking behind a Warholian grid showing 15 coffee cup imprints, viewed from top to bottom, each rectangle in a unique charcoal wash. A play on seriality and shifting perspectives, he finds a counterpart a few pages later in a checkered portrait of a woman (van Drimmelen perhaps?) lined with strange chemical artefacts. Meanwhile, a painted photo of a door frame couldn’t be more different. Hidden behind swirling lines in a sea of green, it looks like a solar retinopathy, and is equally entertaining. It takes a few moments of study to determine that, yes indeed, there is a photo buried under the oils.
As a book, June’s production is quite beautiful. With a cloth binding and a spike on the front cover, it’s a slim and sleek creation, probably best kept out of the reach of children. The pace of the images is relaxed, with one or sometimes two per plate, sequenced in a variety of sizes to keep the reader guessing. by Van Drimmelen the photographs are reproduced uncropped as prints, including their white borders to give them a tangible punch. Krabbé’s paintings have a physics to match, kicking it all off with a bold stroke of red paint on the title page (overflowing slightly beyond that, as paintings sometimes do).
Why green is so dominant isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s in full force here, sometimes complemented by orange. Add some purple and burnt ombre variations and it covers most of the coloring. Maybe Krabbe was simply in a verdant phase? Or his choices may reflect the Mediterranean, the sparse vegetation of Hydra, or the renewal of young children. It’s hard to know, but in this book he and van Drimmelen have strayed from earlier currents. Annemarieke van Drimmelen was best known until now as a fashion photographer (and before that, as a model). Krabbé is above all a figurative portrait painter. At least that described their previous lives in Amsterdam. But the pandemic seems to have triggered their reset buttons, just as it has for many artists and society as a whole. Hydra and June were the catalysts.
As we gradually move out of the pandemic into what’s to come, its dynamics and order are still unclear. This might prove confusing for adults. But as anyone can attest to who has followed a toddler, novelty is the default worldview for children. They adapt and adapt, even to quirks like face masks and social distancing. “Everything is new for [June]“, say his parents, “and so, thanks to his way of seeing the world, the smallest things can become new to us again. In a way, this amazement is the very essence of this book. June is a double: a souvenir of the pandemic and a glimpse of potential paths forward.
Collector’s point of view: The commercial work of Annemarieke van Drimmelen is represented by MA Talent (here). Jasper Krabbé doesn’t seem to have a consistent gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following should probably connect directly with the artists through their websites (linked in the sidebar).