Medicine Cabinet

Job Koelewijn



Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0420).

Job Koelewijn's installation *Medicine Cabinet* holds a collection of his multiples. Although the work of Koelewijn reveals a wide variety of media, forms and ideas, we also see a large number of unexpected cross-connections. Over the years a pattern has evolved in his work comprising certain regularly recurring themes. One of them is poetry as the elixir of life, as a source of nourishment for art. Playing with language is a fundamental component of the idea behind *Cleaning cloth*. In the centre of the work we see a woman wearing the traditional Spakenburg costume cleaning away a work by the artist Bruce Nauman that bears the inscription ‘the artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths’. Here the cleaning alludes to the two meanings of the Dutch word ‘schoon’: clean and pure but also beautiful or artistically refined. Koelewijn’s preference for certain materials also betrays a preference for the poetic. He often uses white or colourless objects and substances – baby powder, soap, ointment, peppermints and so on – which, despite their familiar form, still radiate a sort of metaphysical purity; an example is the *Text inhaler*. *Bodywarmer* on the other hand is a work with a strong autobiographical slant. In 1996 Koelewijn was invited to stay in New York for a year, but he did not feel at home in the Big Apple. During his walks through the city he comforted himself by taking his favourite poems on tape with him. In this work the spectator is invited to do the same. From the ears in the sleeveless jackets we hear the sound of ‘healing’ poems like Robert Frost’s *The road not taken*. In this way – and not without a degree of irony (partly directed at himself) – Koelewijn’s work questions not only the role of the artist in creating and experiencing art, but also that of the viewer.

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