The Artourist

What would you do if you had one and a half days in London?

My list was long; much too long to squeeze into such a short time. After some hard decisions I narrowed it down and set off to slurp up as much art as I could.

The ‘must-sees’

For me, a visit to the Tate Modern is obligatory, in particular the ‘Mark Rothko room’ – the Seagram murals I’ve talked about before in ‘Art for the Artist’. At one point there were only 3 of us sitting reverently in the twilight temple, for a few blissful moments, before the silence was sadly shattered by the entrance of a voluble group.

The rest of the Tate Modern was also the usual delight, with inspirational pieces from names such as Gerhard Richter (‘Cage’ 1-6, 2006; a series of six paintings inspired by the composer John Cage), Mark Bradford (‘Riding the Cut Vein’, 2013), Sam Francis (‘Around the Blues’, 1957-62) and Ernst Nay, (‘White Spring’, 1963).

Sam Francis 'Around the Blues', c 1957-1962

Sam Francis, Around the Blues, c 1957-1962

There was also photography by Brett Weston (for example, ‘Clouds, Skyscape’, 1980 and ‘Banyan Roots, Hawaii’, 1974) and Bernd and Hilla Becher. The latter was a hauntingly beautiful collection of black and white photos of industrial structures (for example, ‘Pitheads’, 1974 and ‘Coal Bunkers’, 1974).

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher

No temporary exhibitions for me this time, although last time I was here I saw the Marlene Dumas exhibition ‘The Image as Burden’– an impressive collection of intense, sometimes disturbing works.

A walk in the park

A very pleasant walk through Kensington Gardens in the unseasonably mild winter weather brought me, via Henry Moore’s massive sculpture ‘The Arch’, to the Serpentine Gallery. Tucked away between two of London’s larger parks, this small gallery houses the best and most comprehensive art book shop I have ever seen. Drooling, I was regrettably forced to be selective due to airplane weight restrictions.

I digress. I was there to see the ‘Transience’ exhibition from Michael Craig-Martin, a contemporary artist who has been making boldly outlined and vividly coloured paintings of ordinary household objects on walls and canvas since the 1990s. The work shown was almost a catalogue of the popularity and decline of the things we have known and loved, or those we have taken for granted – an ode to bygone objects, some perhaps now hardly used or hidden away in a box in the attic. Each one recognisable and bringing with it a rush of sentimentality and a smile of your face, tinged with the sad realisation that time is merciless and everything is eventually usurped. Although not labelled as such, these pure and colourful paintings lean towards pop art. Thoroughly worth the visit.

Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (headphones, medium), 2014

Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (headphones, medium), 2014

Art on the street

Street art is transient. Whenever I can, I like to visit the Brick Lane area in Shoreditch to see the latest of the ever-changing urban gems. Hidden away through a narrow side street, there’s a parking area that is adorned with a large collection of pieces and throw-ups. A little further up the road, Fournier Street and Hanbury Street (the old haunt of Jack the Ripper!) also offer a selection of remarkable pieces, including a 9m tall crane by Roa and its neighbouring mural by Martin Ron, as well as specimens from C215, Dank, Shok-1 and Stik.

C215, Brick Lane, London, December 2015

C215, Brick Lane, London, December 2015

Iljin, Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Iljin, Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Just off Hanbury Street it opens out into Dray Walk. Here some of the bigger names in street art have left their mark: Shepard Fairey, D*Faced, Invader and of course Banksy. Walking around, ever vigilant for a glimpse of the next temporary artwork, it became obvious that I was not alone on my treasure hunt as I came across several street art tour groups.

Roa, Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Roa, Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Street art on Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Street art on Hanbury St, London, December 2015

Talking of Banksy, Steve Lazarides will be curating an exhibition called ‘The Art of Banksy’ at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam from 18 June to 30 September 2016. This is sure to be a very popular event with much buzz around it. I can’t help feeling Banksy’s rather over-hyped these days. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very talented artist and certainly deserves the attention, but in general, hype on anything is a turn-off for me as people have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon to exploit and grab what they can out of it. Still, potential over-hype aside, I’m very much looking forward to the exhibition.

Something else to look forward to is the international graffiti festival ‘Step in the Arena’ that will take place in Eindhoven on 4-5 June 2016. For more info, keep an eye on the Step in the Arena Facebook page.

And the inspiration keeps coming…

So after a packed, art-filled agenda in London, there’s of course so much more on the horizon to feast my eyes, soul and inspiration on… starting with a trip to Foam Amsterdam to catch some excellent photography by Jacques Henri Lartigue and Awoiska van der Molen before their exhibitions close on 3 April.


Gathering Momentum – Photography, Paintings & Exhibitions

Despite the ‘radio silence’ since February, it’s been a busy few months.

 A lot of my focus has been on photography over the last months. Fascinating skies have held my attention and have made for some stunning shots.

Street art has also been a favourite subject and I captured a lot of sticker art in a recent trip to Amsterdam. Sadly I’m unable to attend the Amsterdam Street Art festival that’s currently underway (8-15 June 2010) – I’m sure this would be a  great source of inspiration. The London Police will be there, along with many others.

As always, light play is a subject I keep coming back to and I have taken a wide range of pictures, mainly from the city lights in Den Haag. Other favourites include macro shots of flora & fauna and abstracts inspired by glass and nature.

As there are so many photo’s it’s impossible to load these all onto this site, so I will shortly be loading up a selection from each subject area.

New paintings
Next to my photography I have also been busy painting. Below are the newest additions to my portfolio and one ‘work in progress’:

Exhibition IGZ, Zwolle
In April I was asked by the Inspectie voor de Gezondheidszorg to exhibit my artwork, both paintings and photographs, at their government building in Zwolle. It’s a private exhibition (an art loan – or ‘kunstuitleen‘ – if you like) of 30 pieces: 16 photos and 14 paintings. I’m really very privileged to have been invited to exhibit there. The exhibition runs from April right through to September, when I have also been asked to come and talk to the IGZ about my work, my style & my inspiration.

Exhibition Diageo, Amsterdam
A second private exhibition I’ll be exhibiting at is one I’m organising myself at Diageo in Amsterdam. Diageo is a premium drinks manufacturer and employs a large pool of international and talented people. The aim of the exhibition is to reveal the hidden talents of Diageo’s employees. The exhibition is planned to start in August and will run continuously, with participants’ content being rotated on a quarterly basis.

Other Exhibitions
Other exhibitions that have kept me busy since February have been ones I have visited and these have been so inspirational.

Running from 6 February till 13 June is ‘Kandinsky & Der Blaue Reiter’ at the Gemeente Museum in Den Haag. 1911 was a turning point in the art world and Expressionism gained momentum. The Munchen-based group of Expressionist artists included Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter, Alexej von Jawlensky, August Macke, Marianne von Werefkin and Heinrich Campendonck. The colour, style and vibrancy of these works gave me much to think about. If you get a chance to go, go early in the day to beat the crowds, as it’s (quite rightly) a very popular exhibition.

Whether you manage to make it in time for the Kandinsky exhibition or not, don’t leave until you’ve explored the depths of the Gemeente Museum. In the far corner of the museum are some stunning works by Piet Mondriaan. Because the hall is situated so far away from the temporary exhibition it’s virtually empty of people – a shame for the people who’re missing out on these great artworks, but a real boon for those who leave the beaten path. The luxury of an empty hall filled with impressive, colourful paintings is not something one gets to enjoy very often.

The Mondriaan collection at the Gemeente Museum is the largest in the world and contains some of his best known pieces. Victory Boogie Woogie, while remaining a very original piece, has seen better days though and I thought it was looking a little grubby. On the other hand, ‘Molen bij zonlicht’, ‘De Rode Molen’, ‘Duinlanschap’ and ‘De Grijze Boom’ are simply awe-inspiring. I really recommend paying these a visit.

A recent weekend in Amsterdam enabled me to explore the Van Gogh museum and Foam Photographic museum at my leisure.

Even though the Van Gogh museum is being renovated and some of the most famous works aren’t currently on exhibit, there are still many, many of his best known pieces to drool over.

In the temporary exhibition in the newly extended part of the museum is a collection of paintings by Gaugin and a number of fellow artists of his day. During the Paris World Exhibition of 1889 they formed a rebellious group and offered an alternative exhibition in answer to the traditional works that could be seen at the Word Exhibition. Particularly interesting, I thought, were the paintings by Émile Schuffenecker.

At Foam I enjoyed the works of photographer Ari Marcopoulos the most. His work can be seen till 13 June 2010, so be quick! Marcopoulos has close links with the youth culture in the US and has taken many photo’s over the past three decades of the hip hop, skateboarding and snowboarding scenes. Due to his close contact with these groups his work shows an intimacy and honesty that any other photographer would simply never gain access to.

Lastly, on a more local note, I will be visiting the opening of an exhibition of work by Den Haag artist Jolanda van der Elst. Jolanda paints using various media and, although she has a preference for portraits, she is not limited to these and also paints still-life and landscapes. Aside from being able to meet like-minded people, the opening will also give me an opportunity to network with some of the local artists. A bit of PR is never a bad thing, I say! Jolanda’s work can be seen throughout the month of June at Gallerie Nootenboom in Nootdorp.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer

Indonesian Street Art -The City As A Canvas

Street art is a world wide phenomenon. Love it or hate it, it’s everywhere.

Most of the time we go about our business and don’t see what’s under our noses: little gems of colour, statements on society or politics, flashes of ego and plenty of humour – a lot of it’s overlooked by the average passerby. A real shame.

On my recent trip to Indonesia (which I could talk about for hours, but I’ll spare you), I spent a couple of days in Yogyakarta (Yogya for short), one of the more progressive and artistic cities in Java. In addition to the traditional batik art that the city is famous for, it’s large student population unsurprisingly contributes to the city’s vibrant creative culture.

On a stroll through the busy main streets and the quieter side streets you can find a wealth of street art if you keep your eyes open.

It’s interesting to compare the street art in Yogyakarta with that in Europe (Bristol and Amsterdam, for example). You can see some similarities in style, but naturally there are also different cultural influences.

Check out my new Street Art pages to see my favourites in Yogyakarta, Bristol and Rotterdam. I’ll be adding more pages soon: one on The London Policemen (the internationally acclaimed, Amsterdam-based duo) and one on the Crimes of Passion exhibition in Bristol.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer