Empty Space

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Yoga international Magazine / Heidi Vandamme

‘Doing something in an empty space’

He works in the tradition of De Stijl and he has a weak spot for Piet Mondrian, to which he lovingly refers to as ‘my grandfather.’ Unlike Mondrian Gerard van der Horst (1955) only makes drawings in pencil, ink and gouache.  Behind his seemingly mathematical work lies a very sensitive soul. After completing his training at the Academy Minerva (Groningen, The Netherlands) Van der Horst, in addition to other duties, always kept busy with painting and drawing. Since 2010 he has deliberately changed to drawing on a small size, often in series. ‘Drawings are more direct than paintings. You have to prepare paintings, for example on the basis of sketches. What you have thought of on paper you will then have to execute. I find that boring.’ Due to the immediacy of the process, design and execution are now the same thing.

One drawing a day
He prefers to make one drawing a day, often with classical or contemporary music in the background. Last year he has made more than 200 drawings. He does understand the fear of the white sheet but it does not bother him. ‘I can always make moves and I always have a point of departure. Each step I take is so to speak an authentic intervention in an empty space. That is the most beautiful thing there is: doing something in an empty space.

Van der Horsts principles are pretty simple: straight lines, ordening the picture plane and a floating element he calls an ‘impulse’ that disrupts the ordening. To him these are sufficient ingredients to make a complete picture. It seems to work. I get to see coherent series of of drawings – combinations of geometric figures, lines and arrows – all variations on a theme and with new perspectives. That may be easier said than done: to achieve this you need to go about well prepared and you have to take exact steps. In this sense his work is almost mathematical.

Van der Horst thinks of his work as a journey into countless possibilities. ‘Having to choose is exciting.’ At the same time he realizes that there is still a long way to go to be able to do all the things he wants to do. When I asked what that could be, he refers to images in his mind he call ‘visions.’ As an example he mentions Renaissance art, to him the highest art. ‘That is so beautiful, you just cannot touch that.’

Deeper level
Unlike his work at first glance suggests, there is also a deeper level. As an example he shows me a drawing of a structure similar to a house. For Van der Horst the house symbolizes a reflexive space that invites contemplation. He explains: ‘By abandoning religion a mentality has arisen that we all can do it ourselves. I do not believe that: it uproots people and we are more opposed than ever. A house takes you to being at home, that is what I want to represent in this series.’

Mental resilience
For some time Van der Horst followed Buddhistic training at Rigpa Amsterdam and Taoistic practices that allowed him to get mind and heart into a stable relationship. It also stabilizes the working process and it enhances mental resilience. Meanwhile Van der Horst is already working on the next step that is about adding more color to his drawings. That is part of his vision: they are also in color. At the same time he calls it a challenge: ‘You see what you want to achieve, but it takes time to get there. After all, we are not all Mozart.’

by Heidi Vandamme
(translation: Gerard van der Horst)
Yoga international Magazine, Feb 2020, pp 62-63