Collage of Hate

Here, at last, is a work that Van Genk titled himself: Kollage van de Haat (‘Collage of Hate’). Indeed, it is bursting with hate, invariably written in capitals (HAAT). The painting consists of three panels, two of which feature a prone man covered with a sheet. The figure on the left still has open if vacant eyes, but the label tied around his neck is clearly meant for the mortuary. The corpse on the right has peacefully closed eyes but lies on a bed of flames; it is a ‘self-portrait’, as Van Genk wrote next to it. The left and right panels partly overlap the middle section, which imitates an issue of LIFE magazine from 1971. The identity of the shooter dominating the central panel is unknown, and so is that of his intended victim. ‘Tuer’, to kill, is written under the pistol barrel, while dashed lines emerging from the shooter’s right eye frame the title of one of the magazine articles: ‘sir Ernest (papa) Hemingway. Bullfighting in spain (pamplona) nav’.

Lower down on the middle panel, a chilling scream issues from the mouth of a bedridden patient. The words below the patient’s bed sheet read ‘The Dutch Moron Homophyl Cancer Patient W. van Gent Imbysil Sinasloah Flikker etc.’ This litany of insults cannot possibly be addressed to his doctor Van Gent, because he only started appearing in Van Genk’s paintings later on, so presumably the insults refer to himself; after all, Van Genk occasionally labelled himself ‘moron’ elsewhere. On the left-hand panel, ‘Van Gent’ is again mentioned in the same breath as a quote from an interview Van Genk gave to the journalist Bibeb, published in Vrij Nederland in 1964: ‘I am a scrap of grey wrapping paper.’ He seems unable to let go of that published bit of self-deprecation. The word ‘HAAT’ shouts out from the painting repeatedly.

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