The Expressive Power of the Unreadable
Just as here are basic scientists, involved in fundamental research, there are also – we could suggest – basic artists. People who in a tenacious way go in search of the essential elements of an image. A characteristic of such a basic scientist/artist is this: in case you arrive at a certain point where you cannot go on, where the road comes to a dead end, you go and search for another angle.
In earlier texts with regard to visual artist Yves Velter, the word ‘serendipity’ has already been used a few times: finding by accident something that you are not actually looking for, but that you nevertheless can and want to take further along. In my view this is only partly true: Yves Velter leaves few things to chance. That which he (re)searches, he (re)searches thoroughly. And while in the beginning of his oeuvre he was preponderantly looking for ‘the physical’, his work soon evolved towards the peeling off of the psyche of that bizarre creature, the human being, that differs from, say, a chimpanzee in merely one percent of genetic material, but that within that tiny bit ‘more’ (or is it ‘less’?) realizes a world of difference in the capability of abstraction, thinking proactively, psychologising, growing demented and plenty of other things that grace as well as plague the human race.
In the early 1990’s Yves Velter, as an autodidact, investigated form. At first in a rather graphical manner: colour, matter, form, dimension, which lead to a ‘technical’ way of drawing; later he moved towards working in a more content-oriented way and in different dimensions. Thus he took existing forms apart (e.g. a chair), in order to have this one ‘form’ breaking up into other forms, always in search of that one, ideal, pure end point. Or he brought forms together in order to mould them into a new whole. In different ways Velter looked for expressive solutions that could provide an answer to his questions. But an ideal form does not and will never exist.
If something about the epithet ‘serendipity’ is true in relation to Velter’s way of working, it is that in the course of his exploration he accidentally came across the phenomenon of ‘man’. Pure form made way for the complicated form of ‘the human being’. And the question shifted from “What is form?” to “What is identity?”. Velter explores the human being (the other, but also himself), his psyche, his perception. They look like familiar figures, and yet they cannot be placed. They are given little context, not much background, no indication of place and time: this is about man in a critical situation. Their outlook is coded: their eyes contain pieces of text from letters written by an autistic aunt of his. Unreadable, incomprehensible texts for everyone but herself, since she used them to devise her own code language.
This is also what an artist like Yves Velter does: he has created his own code, which we can understand in the way we determine ourselves. Can you convey a certain message through colour, for example? The trigger will be different for the artist as compared to the viewer. We can only know each other in a limited way, we are continually modifying our self-image and the image of the other, chance and doubt will always reign.
And so you see how Velter’s figures are involved in self-investigation, by stripping themselves of a slice of skin from their arm: under the skin a piece of unreadable text is found. Or you see figures that are vomiting gold, because they have too much materiality inside; or the ones who vomit ink, who are letting go of the matter they are drawn in; or, more recently, the naked woman with the intestines she is pushing out.
Images, events whirl out into small spots and little balls, as forms of memory loss. The faces of certain figures turn out to be mirrors, so that they look back at you yourself. A man has four eyes: is he sleeping or looking? And whatever he is doing, can you, the viewer, get a grip on it? Not in the least, for the artist has not got a hold over it either: he actually even does not want to, he searches, presents questions, keeps his distance. Velter’s oeuvre is all about questions that refuse answers, about fears that mask desires, about talking without communicating, about the expressive power of the unreadable. Along with all that, a characteristic crops up that typifies the whole of Velter’s work: the feeling of unease. Not a cheerful oeuvre, no spectacle, but work that slides the unease into the viewer’s brain, by showing what we all do indeed feel, but do not want to know.