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Harry van Kuyk
graphic artist
1929-2008

www.harryvankuyk.nl

Progress Report White on white. And black

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And black. Harry van Kuyk (1929-2008)
White on white. And black
Relief prints and artist’s books

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Progress report 05 | May 2016

On 11 September of this year Harry van Kuyk (1929-2008) White on white. And black. Relief prints and artist’s books will be presented. The final phase of the layout, in the hands of studio frederik de wal, is in full swing. The book is to be printed by NPN Drukkers in Breda in August.

     The book presentation takes place at the Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, on Sunday 11 September, at 2.00 p.m. The programme will follow. Simultaneously there is a selection of Harry van Kuyk’s relief prints from the museum collection on display in the Museum Het Valkhof print gallery from 11 June until 2 October.

     After the book presentation in Nijmegen a second presentation may take place in the Museum Meermanno / House of the Book in The Hague in the autumn of this year. Further information will follow. In Meermanno the focus will be on the typographic aspect of Van Kuyk’s work and artist’s books.

     White on white. And black: ca. 400 pp., ca 250 ill., price € 49.95 (shipping not included). On sale from 11 September, after the book presentation. After that date from Van Kuyk Publishers (Marie-Antoinette), Ooij.

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Sample page White on white. And black (studio frederik de wal)

     Joost de Wal

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Progress report 04 | autumn 2014

Important and substantial additions to White on white. And black have been completed. Paul van Capelleveen (curator special modern prints, Royal Library, The Hague) wrote an article on Van Kuyk’s fourteen bibliophile graphic editions (from Aldus Manutius, 1971, till Novanu, 2006). He also made the accompanying, professional bibliography. Joost de Wal wrote an article on Van Kuyk’s innovative relief print method; a method that (still) is not to be found in any handbook of (international) graphic art. Also, Harry van Kuyk’s rich essay from Bodoni Initiales (1993) has been added to White on white: an indispensable, clarifying and personal account of the theory and practice of his labour intensive relief print projects.
     New facts about Van Kuyk’s work emerged. For example, Tom Veen’s and Ad Lansink’s memories of Harry van Kuyk enriched the knowledge about his unique, monumental and minimalist wooden wall relief from 1975. The reports can be found in the Foundation Newsletters (No. 23, May 2014, and No. 24, December 2014).

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Page 112-113 from the main catalogue, White on white. And black. Frederik de Wal design studio

Frederik de Wal Studio has so far designed and completed the final layout of the first 150 pages of White on white.
     In the wake of the book, in December 2013 the Royal Library (KB) acquired Van Kuyk’s monumental Bodoni Initiales for its collection. (No. 7 from an edition of 8). Four relief prints from this work were exhibited in the spring of 2014 in the exhibition Top Pieces of the KB.

     Joost de Wal

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Progress Report 03 | May-June 2013

In 1997, a jubilee book was published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the GBK: "For the benefit of art. Fifty years of the Society of Visual Artists, 1947-1997 (Arnheim 1997) In het belang van de kunst. Vijftig jaar Gemeenschap Beeldende Kunstenaars, 1947-1997 (Arnhem 1997). The book contains an interview with Harry van Kuyk by Moniek Wiedijk.
     Harry was a member of the GBK (Gemeenschap Beeldende Kunstenaars) and, as recorded by Wiedijk, organised the Besiendershuys exhibition program with unprecedented energy for a number of years.

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Interview with Harry Van Kuyk in Vijftig jaar GBK, 1997

The interview, however, is confined to the generalities. In order to understand the depth of Harry's impact on the Nymegen world of arts, more information is needed.
     Research into the GBK archives at the Nymegen regional archives has been revealing. Harry left an abundance of traces in numerous documents. In 1969, he became a member artist of the GBK. Almost immediately he joined the board. Together with Theo Elfrink and Geert-Jan van Oostende he organised all exhibitions in the Besiendershuys (the regular GBK exhibition venue). In 1971, however, he stepped down from the board, and in 1975 he even terminated his GBK membership. He wrote a rather cryptic note: 'Dear Gentlemen, I herewith announce the termination of my membership in the association as of today. Details about the reasons why will not be provided by me.'
     One year later, January 1976, he applied for membership renewal. In June of that year, he became the chairman (and only member) of the Besiendershuys committee. For two years, until July 1978, he organized some 40 events, presentations and exhibitions in the Besiendershuys, including artists like Robert Terwindt, Arno Arts, Sven Hoekstra, Emile Viegers, Joep de Bekker and Kees Salentijn. In addition, he was also a member of other art-related Nymegen boards of governors. After increasing criticism about his policies he handed over his activities in mid-1978. In December 1978 he decided to terminate his membership for good.

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The Royal Library The Hague and GBK 9, March 2013

Research at the Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) at The Hague revealed that Harry also made contributions to the GBK magazine (simply entitled GBK). In 1976 and 1977, he wrote a number of articles. In 1977, he organized the publication of a successful combination issue of GBK and the Nijmegen literary magazine De Schans. GBK made a photo documentary of this event. In exchange, Thomas Verbogt, the writer, poet and novelist, then editor of De Schans, dedicated a series of poems to Harry in the subsequent issue of the literary magazine. This further confirmed how widely Harry was rooted in the Nijmegen art scene.

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GBK 10 Magazine, February 1977. Left below, Harry van Kuyk. Right below, centre, Thomas Verbogt (photos Koos Fasel)

     Joost de Wal

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Progress Report 02 | May 2013

The compilation of the book is well underway. Currently, all of Harry's cassettes, artist's books and collections (fifteen in all) are being photographed by professionals. The scans of the prints and drawings have been carried out by the Zeeland Archives (Zeeuws Archief). This project has completed almost all of the main catalogue in combination with object details, quotations and short texts: over 100 pages.
     The essay section containing the article about the technique of relief printing is being written. The existing articles by Lambert Tegenbosch and professor Ovink are ready for printing. In contrast to later print versions, they are faithful to the original texts as published in Variaties op de Sectio Aurea and Groot Abecedarium. The remaining and substantial sequel of articles concerning the historical value of 'Harry's art and the history of his books are yet to be written.
     The outline of Harry's biography is close to completion. Many facts have to be checked. Newly discovered facts sometimes required (and still require) exhaustive research. Both The Netherlands Institute of Art History (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie) and the Royal Library situated in The Hague, and the Nymegen Regional Archives, as well as contacts with artists, gallery owners, collectors and photographers turned out to be indispensable. There are still gaps, but it is expected they will be filled soon.
     Three important, laborious annexes have been completed; a complete survey of all of Harry's exhibitions; a complete survey of all reviews and articles about Harry and his work; and a survey of the most important articles written by himself including an introduction: totaling about 20 pages.
     A catalogue, at the end of the book, is being compiled. All of Harry's works - monumental commissions, books and collections, individual (relief) prints - as well as the accompanying data, publisher's inscriptions and comments have been inventoried and listed chronologically. It should be mentioned here that not all works have been traced. Another remaining task is the reproduction of all the relief prints (ca. 500). The catalogue will contain graphic representations of every print to illustrate the form concepts, shifts and repeating patterns at a glance. Harry used to do this in earlier years for his personal administrative purposes: he produced sheets with sketches of the prints to be on display prior to the exhibitions in Amsterdam (Gallerie Asselijn, 1971) and London (Prudhoe Gallery, 1972). In addition to the sketches he recorded the necessary details.

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Harry van Kuyk, sketch sheet for Prudhoe Gallery, London, 1972

The photo archive produced some remarkable finds. Special photographs will be reproduced full page size in the book.

     Joost de Wal

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Progress Report 01 | april 2012

Meanwhile the scaffolding of the book on Harry van Kuyk, White On White. And Black, is taking shape. Before we could arrive at this stage, an inventory of the private archives had to be made. There is a massive work archive– although not complete, it contains intriguing documents from the late ’60s that shed light on the origin of the relief print – and an extensive, yet chaotic archive on exhibitions, clippings, texts and correspondence.
     For example, on 29 April 1973 Harry wrote to the renowned Amsterdam book historian who had just dispatched his introduction to the Groot Abecedarium (1973): ‘Dear Mr Ovink’, The massive job of printing the relief prints has been completed after seven months. I shall start now on the finishing of the edition such as the cladding of the cassettes, applying the back titles and seals, etc.’ Earlier he had informed Ovinkt hat the printing of one edition of one single letter (character) had taken an entire week – working 16 hours a day.

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During the ordining process

Both archives are important sources for White On White. And Black. After the archives have been organized, described and made accessible, we could draft the outline of the biography and the exhibition survey.
     In addition, photographs have been collected and interviews have been held, and parts of Harry’s work have been traced in various museum collections (Haags Gemeentemuseum, the Museum of Modern Art in Arnheim, Central Museum Utrecht, etc.)
     There are still questions and gaps, but despite this the skeleton of the book is taking shape, and filling in the details is just a matter of time.

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From the archives

A big stride forward has been the reproduction of the relief prints. Van Kuyk has always struggled with the representation of his work. It was impossible to register with a photo camera what the eye would perceive of the light and shadow play, and however the photographers did their utmost, the reproductions remained bleak ghosts of the original works. It must have been a permanent source of frustration for an artist from the printing world. This is why we have taken quite another road. The solution to this problem was the scanning technique. The Zeeland Archives (Zeeuws Archief) in Middelburg boasts one of the few big scanning machines in the whole of the Netherlands. Its features are slowly being discovered not only by archives (for digital access), but also by artists. The two specialist operators, Ivo Wennekes and Mark de Graaff had the scanner custom made to their specifications. Since that time, they have crossed into new areas of reproduction technology. Artists are amazed by the natural, clear and profound scanning results, whether the original work is a drawing, a painting, or tapestry.
     The proof scans of Van Kuyk’s relief prints were excellent. But, could they also be transferred to a book? NPN-printers in Breda finally succeeded in doing so after a vast series of proof sheets. By using a minimum of means – black and one single supporting colour – an image quality has been created that will be consistent on all pages no matter what the quality of the original may be. The reproductions remain close to the warmth, sharpness and depth of the relief prints, and the subtle mysteriousness of the work is not lost.
     Around 200 relief prints are being gathered for scanning in the Zeeland Archives. Van Kuyk would undoubtedly have wanted to witness this stage closely.

     Joost de Wal

See also:
Scannen Zeeuws Archief 1
Scannen Zeeuws Archief 2

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