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Houben R.T.     Email        Statement           
In my recent works I paint subject matter borrowed from coins and paper money. It is not difficult to relate this direction of my art to my training as an artist in a totalitarian country. Power makes itself visible in everyday objects through the imprint of symbolic images. The visual motifs I use in these works suggest the ways in which coins and paper money legitimize power through constantly reminding us of it. Before coins became a form of exchange they were used as tokens of participation in tribal religious ceremonies. Lacking intrinsic value, coins are similar to artwork as both depend on a socially contracted sense of worth. In themselves the materials, of which contemporary money and art objects are made, are generally worth little––yet, as a society, we agree to give them value. Through the imprint of symbolic images, money also serves as communal memory. Industrialism facilitated the formation of a sense of national belonging through the consumption of the mass-printed word and image, possibly the most powerful example of which is money. Above and beyond its buying power, money promotes a sense of security and national participation. The characteristics of money outlined above appear aesthetically transformed in my work. When I draw with glitter I suggest a link to miniature Byzantine mosaics--private objects of devotion. The painting process involves layer upon layer of oil paint on canvas. At first glance the surface resembles a topographic map of a hilly area, but a closer look reveals a geological register of various human everyday efforts. The heavy textured relief of the paintings makes for visual transformations depending on the quality and direction of the light. I like the way light dances and bounces off the textured reliefs, shifting the dynamic between abstraction and representation and mirroring the multiple roles and changing faces of money in society. These oil canvases have been drying
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