Press release

Mark van Overeem

A Wish in Return

20 June – 18 October 2015

GEM, museum of contemporary art

In 2013 Mark van Overeem (b. 1970, Houten) spent two months in Israel. A Wish in Return is an installation inspired by that visit and created especially for the GEM. It is about the inner spaces created by (usually manmade) boundaries in space and time, such as the West Bank separation barrier. In the exhibition space at the GEM, Van Overeem is constructing a garden that reflects his impression of Jerusalem’s public places and parks at night: an apocalyptic world in which everything seems to hold its breath. For Van Overeem, it is as if Jerusalem is on the brink of a catastrophic earthquake, like the one that struck the city in 1927. Provided with a pocket torch and blanket, each visitor to the darkened space at the GEM will becomes part of the installation and, for every other visitor, a bit player in the drama.

Throughout his artistic career, Mark van Overeem has been fascinated by boundaries, reflections and repetitions, and by the inner spaces created by boundaries. Following a lengthy exploration of this phenomenon in oils on panel, his more recent work has examined the human environment, linking the world of the imagination to tangible reality. He now uses photography, applying it on an architectural scale in large ruimtewerken (‘spatial works’), as he himself calls his installations.

These works are concerned primarily with social issues like the Hutongs (700-year-old neighbourhoods of Beijing that are now gradually disappearing) or, as in A Wish in Return, the time he spent in Israel. But Van Overeem is not driven by any sense of ideological commitment. The associations evoked by his work are personal; he never takes sides and offers no solutions. What interests him is the experience of constraint and conveying that experience to the public, for each of whom it will be palpable but different.

In A Wish in Return, individual visitors play an important role. Draped in blankets and armed with torches, they grope their way through the nocturnal labyrinth of reality, illusion and reflection. Van Overeem is referring back to the public places of Jerusalem, but also creating a new enclosed space in which associations have free rein. In doing so, he plays a game with reproduction and repetition. The same game is a feature of the other works in this exhibition at the GEM. Side rooms accommodate works in which photographs have been printed on top of paintings and the results are presented as three-dimensional objects in space. In one of these rooms, Van Overeem exhibits Presenting the Present, a painting presented in this spatial way and then mirrored. This approach gives the work a site-specific nature and a temporality, since it will exist in this form only for the duration of the exhibition.