Show me your Scars

Someone sliced it open in middle. It was an unrequested act of violent co-work on my painting.

Koppen (Heads)

In 1997, I created Koppen (Dutch for Heads). It is a large oil painting of 120 x 148 cm (47.2 x 58.3 in). Originally painted on a self-prepared stretched canvas. 

I painted my mother and father, three friends, and my dog Kay. It is an important painting since it signaled a transition in my painting style. 

In my fourth year of being at the Art Academy, I had hung it, over the weekend, in the entrance hall of the Art Academy. And that weekend, during a school party, someone stuck a sharp object in the middle of the painting and sliced it open. The aggressive act had irreversibly changed the look of the painting.

This was not a deliberate cut done by me. Like with Lucio Fontana’s Cut Paintings. It was an unrequested act of violent co-work on my painting. 

Lucio Fontana

It took me a while. And then I thought, this painting is not lost. I am going to stitch it!

I took the canvas off its stretcher bars. And I stitched it with needle and black thread. The stitches are around 1 cm (0.4 in) and 0,5 cm (0.2 in) apart. It also felt it gave me a bit of my power back. Since I felt personally attacked by the anonymous deed. 

The sadness dissipated. And the remedied cut became an integrated part of the artwork. And I liked it. It worked. And I began to see it more symbolically. 

Like in life we have to mend ourselves. And these fixed cuts I think can be shown. It shows the richness of our experiences (good and bad). So the stitches in themselves became to make sense too. 

Ira by the Water

Other paintings that were damaged I stitched too. Such as Ira aan het Water (Ira by the Water). An earlier painting from 1997. You can see that my painting style had not yet changed.

Pascal & Claudia

I also stitched the artwork Pascal & Claudia.—A painting from 1998. It was painted with acrylics instead of oil. And you can see the changes in my painting style. The colors had become more primary and direct. The realistic-looking portraits had become simplified representations of people. And text is being added. 

Blanket of the Sleep

Deken van de slaap is Dutch for Blanket of the Sleep. An acrylic painting from 1998. Words painted in black acrylic paint, circle around the depicted person’s face. Here I stitched a rip in the canvas. 

Bali Bali Bali No. 4

And the last painting I stitched is Bali Bali Bali No. 4, painted in 1998. It is the fourth painting of the Bali Bali Bali series. 

It is almost as if the stitched paintings prelude a new period in my painting style.

Kim Engelen, Bali Bali Bali No.4, Acrylic on Canvas, Detail-shot 3, 1998

By now my paintings had become similar to my drawings. All unnecessary accents have been removed. The colors have disappeared. The style is almost minimalistic. If it were not that the paintings are a sort of confession paintings.—About people and emotion. 

This is the last painting I painted. From here on I would continue to work mostly with video, photography, text, collages, etc. 

How do you feel about damaged paintings? Would you acquire a canvas that has been stitched
Let us know in the comments below…

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