Jurriaan Benschop

Writer and curator

During my residency, I work on a book, called Why Painting Works. Over the past decade, I have written on many occasions about painting and have organised solo and group exhibitions. From this developed the wish to make a book that brings together insights and experiences, and map connections between artists in an era of style pluralism. Painting is an art form that everyone knows, its history going back to early forms of human life, and for most people the first contact with art, during childhood. Yet contemporary paintings often appear as a mystery, and they are associated with a specialized field of expertise. This book will give access to the world of painting, to the ideas and drive behind the work. It will allow the reader to navigate through the diverse landscape of contemporary painting.

Writing this book is an opportunity to rethink the language we use to speak about art. What kind of tone is suitable? Is it possible to evoke the experience of looking at a work of art? Writing about art is not just a matter of knowing your subject matter or history, but it is as much about style, and about being flexible in language. Therefore, I look forward to being in dialogue with artists and researchers from other disciplines. It will be interesting to see where common ground can be found. Even though our focus and subject matters are different, we all share language, an interest in art and in creating narratives around it.

During the residency, I will process material that I collected over years and focus on rewriting and adding new chapters. I will look for the voice (or voices) that can lead the reader through the material, including switches in atmosphere or tempo that are needed. As a writer time is my friend, and rephrasing what I wrote before is an important tool in the process. In this respect my practice is not unlike that of some painters; it is about layers and about creating clarity through reduction.

Jurriaan Benschop is a Dutch writer and curator who is based in Berlin. He grew up in Amsterdam, where he studied art history. He is the author of the essay book Salt in the Wound (Garret Publications, 2019) for which he travelled across the European continent to speak with artists about their work, their imagination and artistic roots. He publishes regularly in Artforum and on Arterritory.com, as well as in exhibition catalogues and artist’s books. Exhibitions that he has curated include Geist und Form. Ten Painters from Berlin (Bloomington Indiana, 2013),As If, At Home(Berlin, 2016),Re: Imagining Europe(Berlin, 2017), Taking Root(Düsseldorf, 2019-20) and A Matter of Touch (Berlin, 2020). He has been lecturing at art schools and universities in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Riga, Vienna, Helsinki and other cities.