Pim Top18 November 2019
Pim Top is a photographer searching for everyday subjects that aren’t that appealing at first glance. In his work, he researches the communication between flat images and the reality they represent. Top asks his viewers to consciously rethink aesthetic conventions and the value we grant at images and objects.
When Arttenders launched the We Serve Art Box Vol.1: the Christmas Edition in December 2019, Pim Top took a photo for the occassion. The other artworks in this art box are a scarf by Corriette Schoenaerts and a pin by Saïd Kinos.
We talked with Top about his work, his affection for researching the meaning of the nonhuman world and his interest in the many contradictions in life.
Can you elaborate on the title ‘Resort’, the work you have created for the We Serve Art Box Vol. 1?
Selecting titles for my work is not particularly my strong suit. However, ‘Resort’ refers to a place that is a dream for some but hell to others. This contradiction is a spatial reference to the feeling and relationship I have with the holiday season, which in turn was the inspiration for the work itself.
This photo is a Christmas image for everyone: for the Grinch and Christmas lovers alike.
How does the idea of a resort relate to the holiday season?
I find a lot of my inspiration in Animism and a philosophic movement called the Nonhuman Turn. Both movements decentralize the human and emphasize the importance of the nonhuman world. We have been so used to centralized humanity in everything we do. From history to our perception of the world. Instead, Object Oriented Ontology and Animism assign agency to all material phenomena, including objects, plants, animals.
This perspective gives me the opportunity to equalize objects that are seemingly random. The imagery I assemble hence does therefore not directly include a logical narrative, but instead emphasizes other attributes of the objects in dialogue with each other.
For Resort I used the same approach. It continues my usual train of thought, this time specifically with the holiday season and Christmas in mind. Personally, I really dislike the holidays. Not due to a specific reason. Sure, I do like some aspects of it, for example the truttigheid of sitting around a big Christmas tree like in the movies. But unfortunately, that does not represent true life.
It is the entire concept of reciprocity and gifting that I resent. Buying gifts. I detest it because you never find something if you have to. I prefer spontaneous gifting: finding something that fits the recipient. I wanted to include the emptiness in combination with the hidden aspect of gezelligheid that are inseparable.
I combined the emptiness and lesser emotions attached to Christmas in an aesthetically pleasing setting. Even though the emptiness of the party is reflected, the combination of images gives it a melancholic aesthetic dimension. The result is a Christmas image for everyone: for the Grinch and Christmas lovers alike. It should probably be the worldwide symbol for the holiday season.
Promotional image for Club Gewalt’s lifestyle opera “Life, Oh Life”, 2019.
You referred earlier to this collaboration as the pret-a-porter version of your work. Does it then also include some elements related to We Serve Art or Arttenders?
Before getting started, I looked at the style of Arttenders. I know the office and their work very well, so I had their vibe inspire the work. It is not literally translated into the picture, but I decided to integrate one of the office features in the background of the work. If you look closely, you might recognize the distorted features of a porcelain horse. This object is one of the pieces in the office that appealed to me. The colors and material of this little statue are some of the main ingredients for the final work.
Wrapped Chairs, commissioned by Studio Truly Truly for LeoluxLX, 2018.
Das Haus, commissioned by Studio Truly Truly for IMM Cologne, 2019.
Your work has developed from a still aesthetic style to a more eclectic signature. How does this work relate to your recent and earlier work?
The common demeanor in my work is the impact of imagery, including both the various ways in which you can compose and experience imagery. The process behind my work hence has not changed. The result however, is clearly influenced by the different stages and types of research that keep me busy.
For example, the study I did for the series of Working Fountains (2017-2018) was inspired by a fascination for the color palette used by Lucian Freud. I fell in love with the colors he used and started to recognize this beauty in everyday objects. Other inspirations for this series were Jeff Wall and Marcel Duchamp. The perspectives and angles used by Vincent van Gogh in his paintings also inspired me a lot in how to compose specific scenes.
Currently, I am fascinated by the digital presence. The things I currently create are a study on how far you can go in detaching meaning without losing it. What happens if you withdraw the logical context of architecture and reality. Or if you limit your work to a 2-dimensional context instead of the usual 3-dimensional freedom of movement in photography. Also, I find a lot of inspiration from the online construction of the self and means of presentation. I play around with posts and advertising created for Instagram, a place where a lot of aesthetically pleasing and purposely ugly content is created. It always includes this contradiction.
Working Fountains, since 2017.
How does your autonomous work relate to commissioned projects?
Well, this relationship is actually in a rapid transition. Autonomous and commissioned work used to be handled in two different styles and approaches. But since my recent collaboration with Nilufar Gallery in Milan [ed. beginning of 2019], it is blurring into one thing altogether. They gave me complete creative freedom, which does not happen very often with commissions. I ended up creating images of 11 x 4 meters creating a full backdrop. The subject also really appealed to me, since it focused on the skin and surface of design and not the shape. I decided to focus on details of surfaces instead of the objects themselves. This focus on details aligned with the study I was already working on and in response also triggered some new ideas for autonomous works that followed. It also gave me the opportunity to explore the technical possibilities of my new Cambo camera. The technical abilities of this camera give me complete control over the level of detailing for the images I make.
I notice that I am searching less for the appreciation from the art world and increasingly from my client or the public in general.
Inspired by Large Interior, Paddington (1969) by Lucian Freud.
At this moment in your career, what is the ultimate work that you would like to realize?
I would love to create a large scale public artwork with Arttenders. Or is that weird to say?
Art for art is slowly losing my interest. Perhaps because I am less influenced by FOMO or because my partner and I have two children on the way. Art is often presented to people that I do not have a direct relation to. Appreciation by the spectator is therefore completely separate from the process of creation. However, I notice that I am searching less for the appreciation from the art world and increasingly from my client or the public in general.
The public realm does not include a barrier that is so intertwined with the art world. With public art, anyone could be your audience. People encounter your work and are entitled to love or hate the work without any context or philosophical story behind it. On top of that, creating art for art’s sake is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, in the end, it is not very different than being very good at something, such as baking bread, for a very specialized niche. Of course, this does not mean that public art can’t have a complex narrative. The means of presentation is just a lot more democratic. I would love to seek the boundaries of this paradox in a public artwork.