As snow blizzards down in Bloomsbury, a bunch of Dutch art devotees gather for mulled wine and muffins in a miniature white cube style gallery. With such extreme weather outside, viewers gaze on paintings and drawings of fantastical and beautiful landscapes- a welcome distraction.
The Dutch Cultural Pop-Up space is a curious project. Despite its ‘pop-up’ title, it has actually been in this location for over a year. In that time it has been the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ showcase for all things new, exciting and Dutch. Past exhibitions have included fashion (Riu Leonardes), architecture (De Ark), video art (Jasmina Fecovic), and a varied range of group shows.
NL’s new exhibition shows how new Dutch artists use themes of landscape and architecture to create invitingly Dutch worlds.
God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.
This winter the talents of a group of young 2D artists are presented to London. Each artist had previously been nominated for the Sovereign Art Prize, a sister to the successful Asian Art Prize. One may expect a group show consisting solely of paintings or drawings to be lacking in depth and range. Not so. Rather, one is met with a group of works which all, interestingly, manage to appear at first straightforward. On closer inspection however each turn out to be full of subtle delicacy and, in the case of Martin Efeert’s work, hidden subjects. A surprising achievement for such a young bunch.
The concept, as explained by curator and Wound magazine editor Ken Pratt, is located in exploring the tradition of Dutch artists’ involvement with their environment, and their unique merging of the ‘built environment’ with what is usually considered nature. Since the Golden Age of artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael there has been a pre-occupation with a quintessentially Dutch space, architecture and landscape in the art of the citizens.
The most obvious of these are the works of Bas Zoontjens and Ansuya Blom. Zootjens’s pastel coloured sci-fi-esque worlds, such as Horizons (2010), appear to show lands literally drawn from the sea, as much of the Netherlands in fact were. Blom’s subtle, pale interiors strip away adornments and foreground the longevity of the Dutch living space. With The House of the Invertebrates (2010) we have calm corridors and rooms invaded by white lines and seams- almost as if natural, living sinews have evolved to create a living space.
Others are more understated- their engagement with the idea of landscape complimenting their subjects and grounding them in a typically Dutch sensibility. Risk Hazelkamp’s three-photo print series ‘Clean and Sober’ shows three supposedly Alchoholics Anonymous Hell’s Angels from behind. As intriguing and entertaining it is to decipher the meaning behind the badges and slogans that clothe the figures, we are aware that they are not gazing back at us- rather pre-occupied with the scenery- of which we are not permitted a full view.
Willem Wiessmann’s oil paintings are the most tenuously linked to the concept- showcasing the fragmentation and difficulty of mapping of those abstract shapes which are taken directly from the mind. These colourful pieces bring playfulness to what could have been an otherwise sober and contemplative exhibition.
A Space to Watch
What this exhibition achieves is bound entirely with the aims of the Pop-Up space itself- to display the surprising range of talents to be found in the new crop of Dutch artists, and to show what makes Dutch culture distinctive. Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive showcase of all Dutch contemporary art has to offer, it is a good introduction to an exciting and accomplished new bastion of practitioners. Plus the muffins were insanely awesome.
Re-opens 5th Jan- 30th Jan 2011.
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle