4 star review for the Zeitgeist exhibition by Marc Bijl at Upstream Gallery

4 star review for the Zeitgeist exhibition by Marc Bijl at Upstream Gallery

4 star review for the Zeitgeist exhibition by Marc Bijl at Upstream Gallery


A cloud of haziness

4 star review for the zeitgeist exhibition by Marc Bijl at Upstream Gallery By Kees Keijer


The spirit of the times is a concept that’s hard to grasp. The influential art historian E.H. Gombrich found it an absurd notion. According to him, the visual culture of a certain era comes forth from specific solutions for specific problems. For the studying of artworks we don’t need to summon any spirits.

For his new show at Upstream, Marc Bijl (1970) shows the spirit of the times. On a painting the word “Zeitgeist” appears, in angular white letters that contrast with their yellow and purple background. It is as if the letters where put on a white canvas, to be sprayed over with spray-paint afterwards. Quick and raw, like we’re used to from Bijl.

But in fact, the work consists out of a powder coating on aluminium, a bit of a devious technique that might be more sustainable as spay-paint, but that was probably chosen by Bijl because of it’s distant and high-tech appearance.

The work of Bijl has undergone a transformation. Before it were the black and white, the punk and gothic, the good and the bad, that were characteristic for his work. Now Bijl has chosen a different path. His work has suddenly become colourful. Happy even, one could think by a first glance.

Bijl, who has been living and working in Berlin for years, has put transparent, colourful foil on the windows of Upstream Gallery, resulting in a transformation of the space. The gallery now rather makes you think of a nice club than a sterile white cube. The club-feeling also is fuelled by a smoke machine and a kind of bar or DJ booth, made out of beer crates that are wrapped in plastic tape in happy, 80’s-colours.

The foggy areas of colour in his work symbolise, according to Bijl, the looking away, the refusing to see things clearly, even a new political movement. The vague, abstract paintings are based on pictures he found on the internet. Like a picture of Prince in the last year of his life, taken in his private club After Dark. Bijl has narrowed the picture down, and faded it in such a way that it has become unrecognisable.

Who are those people? What has happened? In a world filled with images Bijl immerses the viewer into a cloud of haziness. Behind the seemingly happiness of his colours a pitch-black view on the world is hiding, in which the truth is being hollowed out by fake news. Inside the smoke machine, which can be seen as a contemporary tower of Babel, the origin of all the miscommunication and confusion appears to us in neon-lights: ‘INTERNET’.

Publication date: 11 Nov '17