I am an observer: Bernadette Beunk


Bernadette Beunk’s abstract drawings and paintings resemble scores or choreographies: graphic representations that are meant to evoke sound, movement and emotion. Yet here, these sensations are transferred to the image directly, without the intervention of a musician or dancer .


‘I am an observer’, Bernadette Beunk says in a soft voice. She looks out the window. ‘Now I am aware of the rustling of the wind, the movement of the leaves, the changing shadows, the sound of cars passing, hammer blows, the beating of my heart.


I used to often draw outdoors. I absorbed things and my pencil moved over the paper, but I did not copy them. Why copy what is already there? To me, it is the emotions evoked by the things that count.’ Beunk follows in the footsteps of Kandinsky, one of the first abstract painters, who in 1910 figured that depicting the world obstructed the view on art. Similar to the composer who uses abstract sounds, the painter must, according to Kandinsky, express himself in pure form and colour. With that, one can touch the viewer’s heart. Art theoretician Suzanne Langer devised the ‘resonance theory’ for this, which supposes that forms and sounds appeal to certain emotions.

‘I am an observer’,  Beunk says. I registrate the subtle changes around me and within myself. Sound, movement, light, feeling. So many things happen at the same time, too many, and I want to get a grip on them.’ Drawing is a physical necessity for Beunk. She balances on the thin cord between chaos and order. Sometimes she regains control for instance during the period around 1994; then she was looking for rational clarity. She had just won the Prix de Rome and had met Peter Struycken.

For a few years she examined the possibilities of the computer under his guidance, in a time when there was hardly any software. She developed programs for structures she repeated and used reflections and also she printed her drawings with a plotter. At the end she thought the results were too mechanical and she decided to use her instinct again. However her experience with the computer enriched her work. Her work is more complex which brings her ideal closer: expressing a total experience of impressions and emotions.

Anne Berk