Petra Groen
Petra Groen ..... Unraveled Body and Mind

Tangible physical experiences
Inevitable physical presence is one of the most recognizable aspects of the objects, installations, and drawings of Petra Groen (Heemskerk, 1973). The objects invite touch with their primarily physical nature. They often seem sensual. The soft rose color is part of that sensuality. Even hanging meat hooks are not frightening, macabre or monstrous; and while the titillating experience is not a direct result of the way in which the objects are assembled, the physical component remains in the tangible objects and installations.
Allusions to the human body are the rule rather than the exception, but they are never literal. Petra Groen does not imitate, cite or copy. Though she busies herself with books about microbiological processes usually meant for researchers or scientists directly involved in medicine and biology, the images in the books function primarily as a catalyst for her work. They push the creative process along, as do used materials or existing objects. Together the visualized or materialized impressions form a unique reservoir: an arsenal that for Petra Groen has the proportions of a treasure chamber, and simultaneously resembles a laboratory for the mind. The materials, images, and found objects that form the basis for her illustrative art expression play uniquely on each other.
Between the pre-existing input and the resulting output of art objects, installations, and drawings lies the adventurous creative process, the outcome of which is never predictable. Associations and intuition give direction to the work of Petra Groen. They steer her visual language and use of material. She also brings out unusual and inventive combinations that originate during brainstorms in her studio/laboratory. Sometimes the objects almost naturally speak for themselves, but they are rarely displayed as is. Between the first idea and the resulting artwork lies the process that is encouraged through the unrestrained will to experiment and develop a new, autonomous and authentic visual language based on the original collected materials. The residue of the creative process is always new and original. Material or objects refer indirectly to their earlier character, function, or quality.
The irrepressible desire to touch the objects of Petra Groen suggests that she zooms in explicitly on the physical aspects; but that is not the case. Her work exists of layers of meaning and moments of experience. Under the tangible physical component hide deeper levels. These express themselves only when the viewer is willing to be led, undulating, from imagination to the internal picture. Petra Groen not only unravels body and mind, but also connects the two elements visually. She leads above all through her personal feeling. For her, organs, entrails and microbiological processes are not scary or blood-boiling things. She approaches the human body and its' smallest components as a mirror of the soul. Her images not only reflect fragments of the figure, but the desire to analyze the body as one would in a laboratory, and reassemble, mutate, manipulate and continue to renew.

The visual language of images is indeed derived from natural or biological information, but the new bodies that Petra Groen has shaped through artistic intervention and image manipulation are above all about feelings, experiences, adventurous examinations and rare expeditions; about the unique, and often ambivalent relation between emotion and intellect, body and mind, sensory perception and rational understanding. The exploration and eventual breakdown of this dichotomy is a concealed effort that does not immediately manifest on the surface of the objects and installations. It is no wonder, because work is often discovered in the investigation phase. Even in the objects left behind in the laboratory or on the dissection table, the odor of the experiment and investigation lingers. The message of Petra Groen sounds through loud and clear: We only know what we see and experience.
Petra Groen finds the basis for transformative processes and metamorphosis in digestive tracts, intestines, mitosis, bacteria, the organ of Corti, amputated limbs, strips of skin, the central nervous system, muscles' and joints' structure, and other intriguing components of the human body and natural processes. She finds the same in table-tennis balls, pantyhose, suspenders, a corset, rubber, printing and textile techniques. Nothing is what is seems on the surface. Frames of reference are turned inside out. New associations and contexts replace old meanings and functions. Petra Groen knows what she wants, and this protects her from the danger of the arbitrary. She knows what she wants her work to be about. Red thread creates the transformation from base bodily functions to a higher spiritual level of experience. She uses the function of the skin as a shell for the bowels. The skin is a package that holds the limbs together. The protective function of the tangible package is figuratively bonded with the human will for protection and safety. The body is a temple, a house, a refuge.
In 2000 Petra Groen lost her house, studio, and all her belongings in the firework factory disaster in Enschede. This may explain her fascination with shelters and tents. Her nomadic existence also bonds her to this investigation. She is a cosmopolitan globetrotter. For her a tent is a temporary residence like as the human body is a temporary actuality. Someday it again turns to dust. A common human phenomenon is the longing for a familiar and safe accommodation: a place where you feel home. The desire for security and satisfaction of comfort zones also has a physical element. That is the longing for the body: the familiarity of your own body or the desirable body of another. In one of her wall pieces Petra Groen explicitly profiles herself with a statement: "I'm afraid to ask questions...For the answers that might come."
That citation is common. In her art Petra Groen enquires a number of phenomenon that go hand in hand with the body, which she sees as a complex system of organs, processes and feelings. The knowledge that intestines, blood vessels and bodily fluids say something about the workings of the body is intriguing. Her artistic interpretation and inquiry into the experience of the body also says something about the human image of the artist. Without the need to search and experiment, new discoveries and findings are blocked. Petra Groen dictates questions, attracts answers, reveals feelings and desires, and touches sensitive strings without worrying about the consequences beforehand. Insecurity is essentially connected with art. Moreover, the curiosity and restless search generate the intrinsic insecurity in art. Making art overcomes the fear of asking questions. Through the answers that Petra Groen formulates in her art objects, everyone must learn to live, its inevitable.
Wim van der Beek, art critic