Nude, Animal, Cigar Paul Kooiker

Courtesy of Tegenboschvanvreden Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

When he was invited to hold a major retrospective of his work, he set himself the challenge of rephotographing and reclassifying his existing themes. Moreover, and not without irony, he added a new series to the existing ‘naakten’ (nudes) and ‘dieren’ (animals) series: ‘sigaren’ (cigars).

A smouldering cigar in his studio – he still smoked at the time – represented the passage of time. At the same time, it carried with it a dark association with transience and death. Having completed the series, and many cigars later, he decided to stop.

For the series ‘Nude, Animal, Cigar (2014)’, Kooiker and his daughter spent a brief period visiting every zoo in the Netherlands. He subsequently ‘bathed’ the animals in a nostalgic sepia tone. Kooiker describes this as ‘adding a lyrical layer’, which is debatable, because however beautiful they might be, they don’t exactly make you feel good. To be caged and exhibited in a zoo is in itself a unpleasant idea, and we tend to read the moods of the captives too. These animals look sad or downcast; in that respect they are like mirrors, in which we recognise ourselves.
In his series of nudes, however, Paul Kooiker omits all emotion. He departs from our idea of nudes, female nudes that is, by objectifying women even more. The person and personality is of no interest to him, it is simply a body lying there, sometimes almost ‘plonked down’. Kooiker shows us this nude from unusual aspects, creating a surrealistic scene in which the woman almost disappears. Rather than simply showing us beauty and charm, he prefers to seek out the field of tension between attraction and repulsion. Where does the repulsion begin? Where does it become exciting?

Photography as a representation of reality in all its colours does not interest him. In fact, he consciously adds his own palette of colours, providing the figuration with a layer of conceptual abstraction.