Michael Raedecker MATERIAL WORLDS at Kunst Museum in The Hague

Michael Raedecker, Inert Pursuit, 2023. Courtesy GRIMM

Dutchman Michael Raedecker burst onto the art scene in London soon after his arrival there in the late nineties to enrol at Goldsmiths after originally studying fashion in Amsterdam. He had already won the Dutch Royal Prize for Painting in 1993 and the Prix de Rome basic prize in 1994.  Soon after arriving in England he won the prestigious John Moores Prize in 1999 and the following year was short-listed for the even more important Turner Prize. His pictures are in the Saatchi, Tate Modern and numerous other collections. He never left England and has lived and worked in London ever since. Fifteen years after his first showing at The Hague’s Kunstmuseum he is back with a major retrospective.

I must confess to never having seen an original Raedecker painting, only reproductions, and was keen to see the originals in the flesh, as it were. I understood that his pictures were very much mixed media, incorporating various threads and fibres but even knowing that, I was surprised and not prepared by what I saw. What I had imagined to be small coloured line drawings turned out to be large paintings without any evidence of pencil, pen or the stroke of a brush, the lines being created by string, cotton thread or other yarns. The paint is often applied thickly but every picture contains threads of one type or another although in some cases you have to get very up close and personal to actually see the finer ones. But despite the ubiquitous filaments these are very much painterly paintings.

What is conspicuous in all the work is the lack of people. There is an ephemeral, almost surreal quality to them. They are like misty memories of a dream where one is wandering alone in a strange environment. That environment is often suburban – there are rather Hockney-esque Californian style houses, garages, gardens and even swimming pools but they are all uninhabited, the only hint of occupation being a distant car in a couple of the paintings. There is a series of small paintings of bedrooms but these are not warm, inviting spaces but often bare, save for the neat, well-made bed and, on one of them, the only other piece of evidence human occupation – a negligee casually lying across the end of one of the beds.

But trees and still lives of flowers are also in evidence along with strange landscapes, enforcing the idea of dreams and isolation. Apart from discovering the threads, another significant factor in Raedecker’s work is scale, which evidently cannot be appreciated in reproductions. As with the nearby Anselm Kiefer exhibition, size matters. From the intimacy of the small bedrooms to the three meter works of buildings and landscapes, each painting has its own comfort zone in this exhibition, sometimes in a room of its own, others hanging closely together in one of the small side galleries.

Michael Raedecker has been an established artist for the past thirty years and it is a significant gap in my education and a matter of regret that I was not more aware of him. This exhibition was a real eye-opener and I will now consider myself a fan of Mr Raedecker. If, like me, you have not seen the work first hand, I seriously recommend that you do – and you will probably become one too.  Michael Hasted 12th April 2024

Michael Raedecker Material Worlds at Kunstmuseum in The Hague runs from 13th April until 28th August