The work by Pim Top is probably more influenced by his studies at Erasmus University (Cultural Science, Philosophy, Art History) then by his brief stint at the art academy. Every image he makes comes from studies examining the way we perceive 2d images and the way we have, since the beginning of times, translated our reality to a flat surface and how this is used for communication. That is why his work could be referred to as a kind of hermeneutic realism and can be seen more as a formal study in image making and language in general. His work asks the viewer to be more mindful of the way he or she perceives his or her own reality in regard to aesthetic assumptions and the different types of value that can be attributed.
The subjects Top chooses to depict are usually everyday objects, rooms or “found” compositions (incidental sculptures), chosen for their familiarity and their lack of commonly accepted inherent beauty.
Using techniques such as focus stacking and panoramic imaging (techniques commonly used for product-/macrophotography and landscape-/architecture photography) he creates images that are both incredibly sharp and of very high resolution. By making images in this fashion it is the human eye that can choose what is worth looking at within the frame and in the process of looking creating its own depth of field because of the size of the images.
These labour intensive techniques used to show everyday objects in minute detail further invite closer examination of these objects. Not only what is depicted, but also the image as a whole, the composition in which the object is rendered and their textural appearance.
by Frans-Willem Korsten, professor in literature
We are so used to looking at works of art that it is time and again difficult to consider our mode of living with works of art differently. This is the more so when the work seems to consist of photographs, for are not these to be looked at. The work of Pim Top proves otherwise. There are three ways of dealing with them, I think, that become more and more complex as we go through them.
The first mode of dealing with them, looking at them, is to consider them in an intertextual field that is not so much determined by other photographic work but rather by painters. Tops work clearly inscribes himself in traditions of representation, taking up themes that have been dealt with by painters. This implies that one should consider first and foremost not so much what is being represented, but the way in which something is represented in relation to the material media that are used. Consider for instance how one of Tops works is clearly a reference to a famous painting by Van Gogh, by means of which the latter expressed how he experienced his room. My phrasing is precise, here. Van Gogh did not so much represent his room but represented the way in which he experienced it, living in it. His specific use of paint, the material medium he was working with, stood in the service of this. So if Top takes this up, this is only after he has studied intensively how Van Gogh is dealing with his room in representing it. The next question is how this can find an equivalent, an analogy, in photography. As a consequence, if we seem to be looking into an ordinary space, say the kitchen of Top, we are not. We are looking at something that represents a possibility of living in or with that space. And as a result we might have to go back to Van Gogh’s painting.
This brings in a second way of dealing with the work. Intertextual ways of considering art are often defined in terms of influence: what came first and what came second and third. Yet this can also work the other way around. It is through the work of art, the work that we are looking at now and which comes first then, that we are lead to seconds and thirds. So whether we take a work such as Tops The Grey Tree, or Samson, the works intrigue in themselves to then provoke references to other artists and works of art, such as Mondriaans The Gray Tree, or Rembrandts The Blinding of Samson. The relation between the two has been defined as a preposterous one by scholar Mieke Bal, who with the very term meant to indicate the reversal of history that swaps pre- and post- and as a result has a positive preposterous effect.
The works of Top bring us to have a fresh look at works of art that are not so much located earlier in time, but are virtually here, next to the photographs, to be called upon and looked at anew. It is Tops dealing with Samson, for instance, that asks us to reconsider how Rembrandt depicts the scene. With Top the emphasis lies on four men trying to bring down one other, in a park-like environment. Instead of looking at the familiar way in which Rembrandt is dealing with light, we are now tempted to look at the way in which Samson is dealt with, physically, and wonder to what kind of environment the tent in which things take place, is opening up.
Since the works that Tops works refer to are not there, we have to imagine them, and this leads me to the third way one can deal with Tops works. In quantum theory, the famous Heisenberg principle holds that one can either assess how things are potentially moving while not knowing where they are exactly, or one can fix a particle, knowing where it is, but no longer knowing what its potential movement would or could be. The American physicist Nick Herbert asked what this implied for our modes of dealing with reality and observation. In a sense he asked why we would have to fix things because we observe, or through observation, thus eliminating the very potential that things have. To avoid such modes of ‘grasping’ he proposed a form of being with things that he defined as ‘rapprochement’. Tops work can be very well considered in the light of this approach. His representations are not meant to grasp reality in any kind of sense, rather they are meant to make us practice an approach to reality. We had rather look slightly next to things, sensing what they are instead of grasping what they are. If Tops works are intelligent and sensitive collages of different perspectives that are seemingly brought together in one ‘observed’ image, the practice they suggest is to give space to the enormous potential of and in the spaces ‘represented’ through the photograph. Nothing is frozen. Perhaps we had rather look just next to the works, letting them work on our imagination, opening up to movement and potential. Instead of looking at things, observing them, and grasping them, we are rather offered possible views then. And in a sense this is the wrong way of putting it. Nothing is offered, as if on a plate. The works only open up if we are willing to go through the very same practice that Tops himself decided to go through. The works activate, asking us to practice a mode of viewing, of living in and with reality, one that does not fix but that opens up space and energy.