GF: Tell us about Contra the title of the show I know you mention that it is inspired by the ‘Contra Composities’ of Theo van Doesburg.

GS: We are interested in different contradictions such as positive negative, black and white, order and chaos, in and out, left and right, shape vs space. Yin and Yang basically. Also diagonal structure vs horizontal and vertical structure. Orthogonal vs diagonal, so to speak, has been a recurring theme throughout our complete oeuvre of work. In working with ‘Counter compositions’ (counter = contra in dutch), van Doesburg tried to create movement in his work. The diagonally positioned shapes create friction and seem to also create movement. Theo van Doesburg has been one of many influences (also, as he was dutch…) and worked very multi disciplinary. That is something that we are very interested in also.

GF: You also mention that the new body of work is also about contradictions and exploring these paradoxes.
Can you expand on this for us.

GS: Some of the works are created in series and they literally obtain parts of the partnering piece of work. Parts were taken from one piece and were exchanged with the other piece. Without rotating or turning them, they fit at the exact same position and location. All the work created was based on this basic principle. We started out making 4 contra collages and continued to work on several pieces catapulting from them actually, we zoomed in on parts and extracted these again. Sampled from the pieces, We have been experimenting a lot with freestyle, chance and uncontrolled outcomes versus a a set of rules and restrictions, like format and colour scheme.
The four collages were a starting point because they consist of printed and photocopied photos of structures (cranes) and we aligned them vertically and cut them up and rearranged like explained above. From there we literally zoomed in, isolated new compositions, trying to search for more minimal compositions from that. You could say, search for the essence.

GF: One of the contradictions that I noticed in the work was the clean and sterile feel of some work compared to some of the more weathered and textured pieces utilizing found or reclaimed material. I personally enjoy the more weathered pieces as they relate to the urban environments that you have worked in, is there a reason you have not embraced these works more compared to the design heavy work?

GS: We wanted to work solely on paper and wood, because of the ability to cut and replace parts of the material. To not only create a nice picture or composition on a piece of canvas. The material is very much part of the work.
The weathered pieces of wood are quite hard to find, so they are in this case outnumbered by the contemporary more minimal pieces, which over time will partly become more ‘yellowed out’ because of UV sunlight. Working with the incremented works is a very technical process, they are not 3D but depth enhanced 2D in a sense. They are still not designed in the sense of predesigned, they are formed instinctively layering the different parts. And the different parts are created in the moment they are executed. We simply created all different layers and kept on layering and re-arranging these parts until we reached the final compositions.
But we are already experimenting more on this combination of robot precision executed on recycled old parts of wood, a good contrast there.
So we will find new ways or bridging the gap between the more weathered pieces and more minimal sterile works. In this exhibition we wanted to show that we research both territories and work towards combining these two different types of output. As for probably all artists we already look forward to making the next moves and deconstructing and re-arranging the sort of works made for this exhibition. Looking for the perfect balance between rough and clean, minimal and complex.

Photos courtesy Ralph Roelse

Over the years the works by Graphic Surgery have been exploring the boundaries of different techniques and genres within their trademark style. The artist duo freely moves from paintings, to murals, videos and installations while maintaining their systematic aesthetics of diagonal lines, geometric planes and a mostly black and white non-colour scheme.

With an entirely new body of works Contra examines on-going dualities like abstract versus figurative, analogue versus digital and high art versus urban environments. By reinforcing these differences Graphic Surgery is looking for a balance in their works that reduces the paradoxes to rubble.

Graphic Surgery’s very first solo exhibition in their hometown Amsterdam will form a new point of departure for the artists. Contra marks an important shift of evaluating past experiments and contemplating the artistic practice the same way the ‘Contra Composities’ did for the Style artist Theo van Doesburg.

Graphic Surgery is formed by Erris Huigens (1978) and Gysbert Zijlstra (1978).

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