Inspiration – Munch, the Caldic Collection and Beauty in Science

I recently visited the Kunsthal in Rotterdam to see the Edvard Munch exhibition. Whilst I’m not a big fan of all of his work, some of his pieces are stunning and his colour use really appeals to me. Did you know that he actually made a number of versions of the ‘Madonna’, each one differing slightly? Munch experimented with many techniques and this has given me some ideas to try out for myself.

The Munch exhibition ran until 20th February, so I was lucky enough to catch it on its last weekend.

Also at the Kunsthal (and still running) is an exhibition of Joop van Caldenborgh’s Caldic Collection of modern & contemporary art. The exhibition, called ‘I Promise to Love You’ after Tracey Emin’s red neon piece, runs until 15 May 2011. It contains some wonderful works and I really recommend you pay this a visit.

My favourites were Robert Zandvliet’s ‘Maannacht’, Renie Spoelstra’s ‘Recreatiegebied #58: Struik’, Maria Roosen’s ‘Breast Berries’, Robin Rhode’s ‘Kite’, Ai Weiwei’s ‘Oil Spills’, Carla Klein’s untitled piece, Ian Davenport’s ‘Poured Lines: Primer’… and many more.

I’ve never come across a collection that contains quite so many pieces that speak to me. I’ll be going back for a second look sometime between now and May and I urge you to do the same.

And if all this inspiration wasn’t enough, there’s an exhibition of scientific photographs and film just started at the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam (in conjunction with the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden) called ‘Schoonheid in de Wetenschap’ (‘Beauty in Science’). This looks to be right up my street, combining both art and science.

The challenge for the exhibition was to find out if beauty exists in scientific images. Of that I’ve no doubt. Having spent years looking down a microscope I can assure you it does.

In the last 2 years nearly a hundred scientists from a wide range of disciplines were approached to take part; from physisists and astronomers to chemists and geologists, from botanists and microbiologists to marine and cell biologists.

I’m looking forward to visiting Boijmans this weekend together with a fellow science and art lover.

Let the inspiration continue!

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer
DESigns

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Gathering Momentum – Photography, Paintings & Exhibitions

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

Photography
 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
DESigns

Art for the Artist

Fascinated by colour as I am, naturally one of the artists I find very inspiring is Mark Rothko (1903-1970). His work makes use of large rectangular areas of colour, highlighted by or offset with complimentary or contrasting hues.

In his mature work, Rothko generally painted two to three fuzzy-edged blocks of colour, of varying size and set free of the canvas edge. He used a wide range of hues and added complexity to the pieces by breaking the rectangles with a contrasting bar of colour (as a sort buffer), or by creating and varying lightness or darkness, opaqueness or translucence, warmth or coolness, and yet retaining a sense of harmony.

Untitled 1951

Untitled 1951

Apparently Rothko claimed he was ‘no colourist’ and that to see him as such was missing the point of his art. Maybe so, but art is such a personal thing. In a way, it’s a form of communication: the artist may have his own message but he needs to remember that not every observer will see things from the same perspective, level or experience; therefore, the observer may take away something completely different from the piece than the artist intended. No bad thing, if you ask me. If I appreciate Rothko, as many do, for his colour, then it is surely good that I derive pleasure (and a range of other feelings) from his work, despite what his original intention may have been. I’m a simple soul – art for me is about feeling and atmosphere. The meaning and symbolism behind a piece is less relevant for me and I derive little pleasure from analysing a painting – that just removes all feeling from it. Call it escapism if you like.

Untitled 1953

Untitled 1953

In addition to the use of colour in itself, what really fascinates me is the interaction of colours with each other. By placing one hue next to another it can really change the feeling and dynamic of a piece. Red next to orange will tell us a very different story than red next to blue. The interplay between the colours (complimentary, broken and contrasting) and their position and size on the canvas all have a major impact on what the piece is saying to you. Rothko really masters this in his mature work.

Untitled 1949

Untitled 1949

Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee are also favourites of mine, but they don’t hold a torch to Rothko’s purity and depth when it comes to the use of colour. ‘Pure’ in this sense doesn’t mean ‘simple’ though, as often Rothko layered colour upon colour, using glazes and applying and wiping off paint, creating complex hues that are difficult to describe. None the less, the effect of this is, for me, is a purity of feeling.

Red on Maroon 1959

Red on Maroon 1959

If you ever have the chance to visit the Tate Modern gallery in London, Rothko’s Seagram murals are a must. Located off the main exhibition hall in their own room (the ‘Rothko Room’), they invite you to get lost in the vastness of the deep colour. Some are evocative of the after-image you get when you close you eyes, after having looked out of the window on a bright day. They are stunning. I could have spent hours staring at them, losing myself in them. Unfortunately, visiting hours are way too short and all too soon you have to emerge from the temple, blinking in the daylight, back to reality.

Rothko Room - Tate Modern Gallery London

Rothko Room - Tate Modern Gallery London

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer
DESigns