So on the surface it’s essentially just a standard water feature pump that loops a bucket of water around in a continuous cycle, but put a blank canvas in the middle and mix some paint into that water and not only is it an artwork in itself, but it’s also a machine that literally pumps out artworks like a goose pumping out golden eggs. And much the same as a chicken lays one egg a day, Paul Van Katwijk’s The Machine creates one painting a day.
Perhaps both the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of The Machine is that it pretty much just creates the same artwork over and over, but most human artists have a tendency to do that too. Another strength of The Machine, Paul tells me, is that he can just switch it on in the morning then leave the studio and go do whatever he wants for the day. Which I can totally see the appeal of, after all, artists are busy people; they have to apply for residencies, propose exhibitions, write grant applications, maintain their online presence, give artist talks, protest arts funding cuts, eat dumplings, drink coffee, serve coffee, save the world, hide from the world, check Facebook and get their pants tailored. And while taking care of all that important stuff surely you can’t expect artists to also have time to actually make art, no way, and thus necessity has given birth to the invention of The Machine.
At last you no longer need to be a tortured soul with paint on your clothes staying up all night in a lonely studio, and no longer do you need to spend your evenings in a life drawing class looking at a naked old man whilst trying to learn how to draw fingers, (they can be a real handful), now making art is as easy as switching on The Machine. Yes, thanks to The Machine at just the touch of a button you’re now able to have as many paintings as you can squeeze into your house, and every one of them fit for a king, (or at the very least, fit for a Kings Artist-Run Gallery).
In all seriousness though The Machine forces you to genuinely examine the idea of the artist’s touch and to consider the limits of what can be mass produced and outsourced. It’s fun to fantasise about having machines that brush your teeth, wash you, dress you and drive you around, but one of the few things I probably wouldn’t want a machine for is painting a canvas. Well, maybe preparing the surface, I would love a machine to do that for me, but when I visited Paul in his studio setting for this exhibition he was busily priming his twenty canvases without any assistance from The Machine, coating the canvases white one by one with a brush, using his hands. But soon I’m sure The Machine will do that part too.
In the original pilot episode of The Jetsons, the cartoon from 1962 that’s set in the future, we meet George Jetson and he proudly explains that “Nobody could dial a breakfast like mother”, and in the same vain as that the best artists of today will soon be measured by how well they can turn on The Machine. It’s a certainty that machines will take over the world. Everybody knows that. And with a little hint of artist-ficial intelligence, it’s also a certainty that Paul Van Katwijk’s The Machine will take over the artworld.