Joseph Cals

joseph cals

Born in The Netherlands in 1949. Living and working in Amsterdam.

Contemporary artist

Cals exhibited all over the world, from The USA, Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland to Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia. His work is present in the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam, among other places.

Cals works to suit individual requirements. Feel free to ask for more information about dimensions and prices. 

cals’ story

In his art be sneaks up on the past from various angles. As gently and as carefully as possible he lifts it out of its usual context and put it down in the present. He is not looking for cut and dried definitions or absolute statements, but tentatively seeks out ways to describe the significance of the past and the present.

Despite the absence of clear or obvious reference to his youth, Joseph Cals’ work often stems from this period. Among the memories one wicht stands out is the excavation of a prehistoric settlement in his home town of Stein. His elder brother took him as a small child to see the partially excavated remains of a settlement where archaeologists were scraping away layers of soil from the fragmentary artefacts left behind. This miraculous rediscovery of the past inflamed his imagination so strongly, that the memory was indelibly imprinted on his mind. Other memories of Stein have also remained with the artist. In the annexe to a former monastery, missionaries had set up a small museum with ethnographic objets. The shields, spears, boats and figures from Africa, New Guinea and elsewhere had the same effect on the receptive child’s mind as the excavations. The artist absorbed these early impressions, made them his own and placed them in his archive of images stored in his own memory. It was only later that he started to draw on this treasure chest of memories, prompted by his intuition. only afterwards could the visual results be traced to their origin, as if the pieces of the puzzle only fell into place many years later.

But there is more to him than this. Over the years he early memories were coloured and deepened by more recent observations and perceptions. All these experiences became wrapped up in a new identity: a personal and legitimate world view incorporating all of these things and which is essentially internalized. Shocking personal experiences, fruitful encounters with colleagues, life’s lessons learned from friends, advice given by teachers in the United States who set him on the read to becoming an artist and Dutch colleagues who understood his creative ideas: these are the things which helped to form Joseph Cals both as an human being and as an artist.

The surface of the work plays an important part in this. The scraping away of layers of soil (typical of the method used by the archaeologists he once admired in his youth) finds a counterpart in the building up of layers in a painting. In each case a small action can have a major effect. When he gets stuck with a painting, he often finds that the impasse or stalemate can be broken through sculpture. In this way sculpture and painting are often complementary and a cumulative effect is achieved. The three dimensional piece promotes spatial thinking, while the painting give the sculptor ideas for composition, colour and proportion. Essentially, the two disciplines overlap one another.

Any attempt to describe the details precisely with references or allusions, would be detrimental to the autonomy of the work and damaging to the coherence and consistency of Joseph Cals’ oeuvre as a whole; not least because consistency is one of the most striking qualities of his work. Objects are turned into vague artefacts, their existence largely based on the fact that they can be associated with universal feelings and timeless events which are never forced, but rare and gentle experiences, with no grand gestures or fanfares; as is fitting for an artist who always seeks out the subtleties.

There is a close affinity with archetypes from primitive cultures, prehistoric cave paintings, relics of a distant past and other enduring ancient traditions which have been tested by time but survive despite the passage of time.

Balance. Equilibrium. Harmony. These are abstract terms with almost as many clichés attached to them as the world ‘time’. This is because of wear due to repeated or incorrect use. To Joseph Cals, however; this does not hesitate to use expressions such as ‘seeking balance’ or ‘striking a balance’ and even sees it as a worthwhile mission to restore the meaning of, in his view, these unjustly censured expressions, and he is right, of course.

artworks by joseph cals

other works by cals

cals’ studio

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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