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.


2011 in Review

Happy New Year!

Thank you all for you visiting my blog in 2011.

The ‘ stats helper monkeys’ prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog, which I thought I’d share with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Wishing you all an inspiring and creative 2012!

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer

Affordable Art for a Good Cause

Want to buy affordable art for a good cause?

Affordable Art for 3FM” is an online ‘silent’ auction for 3FM’s Serious Request – a fundraising campaign in conjunction with the Red Cross to raise money for mothers affected by war & conflict situations.

In at least 25 countries throughout the world more than 10 million mothers are affected by war – they lose everything, have to flee, have no food, clean water or healthcare and are the victims of sexual abuse. They are left behind to care for their family alone.

The Red Cross helps these mothers not only by providing them with the essentials (such as shelter, medical care, food and drinking water), but also with support in getting an independent income and with the search for loved ones that have gone missing.

The 8th edition of 3FM Serious Request will take place from 18th – 24th December. ‘The Glass House’ will be set up on the Beestenmarkt in Leiden, the Netherlands, where 3 DJ’s will be locked in without food for 5 days to raise money by playing requests.

How can you help?

Affordable Art for 3FM” offers you the opportunity to donate money to this good cause whilst gaining a great piece of original art. The artists featured in this collection have graciously offered to donate a portion of the proceeds (a minimum of 50%) to the 2011 3FM Serious Request fundraising campaign.

The bidding for the online auction starts 6th December and will run through till 20th December.

Would you like to know more about the auction or any of the pieces featured, or would you like to place a bid? Please contact Pieter Augustinus or Dewy Van Tol.

Help a mother, save a family


Show & Sell – An End and a Start

After a run of 9 months, my exhibition at the IGZ came to an end in December. Originally due to finish in September, I was extremely pleased that it had been extended by a further 3 months.

The majority of the 30 pieces were returned to The Hague and are now stacked up in my atelier waiting for a new home.

However, 3 pieces have already found their new home! The IGZ has purchased 2 paintings, the stripe-duo ‘Cool Blue Stripes’ and ‘Divided in Sleep’, and 1 photo called ‘Galaxy’. A 10% sell rate on only my second exhibition is a great result.

As one exhibition came to an end, a new one started.

I have been busy organising an exhibition at Diageo in Amsterdam called ‘Revealing Talents’. The aim of the exhibition is to reveal the hidden talents of Diageo employees.

On 17th December the ‘Revealing Talents’ exhibition officially started. Unfortunately, due to the severe weather at the time the Grand Opening event had to be postponed till January, but both the exhibition and the Grand Opening were well attended and I have received a lot of good feedback and many requests to take part.

It’s caused quite a buzz in the office. And that’s exactly the point – to get conversation started, to get to know and value each other better and to see if there’s a way we can use each other’s talents in the working environment. After all, if people are doing what they love and what they do best, then they will achieve more and get more satisfaction out of their work.

The exhibition is ongoing, but the content and participants are rotated every 3 months. The first exhibition is showcasing the talents of 5 participants: a painter, a photographer, a furniture-designer/maker, a dancer and myself as painter and photographer. Future talents that we’re expecting to reveal will be: yoga teacher, swimming teacher, neurolinguistic programming trainer, hypnotist, sculptor, digital artist, painters, photographers, bakers/cake decoraters and cooks. And all this in a company that produces premium alcoholic drinks!

The second exhibition is planned to start in late March and I’m really looking forward to the reaction of the Diageo employees to the talents that are revealed of the next group of participants.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer

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

The ‘Ah!’ Moment

Inspiration is a strange and fickle thing. It comes and goes as it pleases, taking you by surprise and disappearing again just as quickly.

Perhaps you can compare it to a frightened kitten. You have to create the right atmosphere before it will come out from behind the sofa and play. You need a calm, trusting environment to coax him out and the right stimuli to initiate his playfulness.

Sounds simple in theory, but it takes some trial and error, and some surprises, before you learn what the right atmosphere and stimuli are for you to become inspired.

Where to start? Well, let’s first think about what inspiration actually is…
We could define inspiration as ‘stimulation of (often) creative action, ideas, thoughts or feelings’. If you like, it’s a stimulation that animates or awakens you.

What do you need in order to become inspired? A source – something that provides the stimulation or interests you. This is of course very subjective and can vary immensely. Also, openness – you need to be open to or to create the right atmosphere, time, space and frame of mind. Inspiration can be blocked if any one of these factors is not met.

For me, work-related inspiration comes from opportunities to develop (personal development, coaching etc) and improve (usually process related, or starting new projects) and from passionate and enthusiastic people. Outside the work arena my sources of inspiration are more visual and tend to be art and nature related. Bold primary and secondary colours; artwork from other artists; flowing patterns and forms; vast, impressive or colourful landscapes; the power of nature (such as the sea, wind or volcanoes); water in its various states; large, intricate or gnarly trees. The list is pretty long.

From the definition though, for something to be inspirational it should incite you to action, thought or feelings. Mostly it makes me feel really alive! Often, with the fascination and energy that these sources awaken, it’s enough to stand there, take it all in, experience them and appreciate them. There’s a deep contentment, an aliveness, a sense of things being as they should be. To capture these feelings I’m usually driven to photography. Painting is more an indirect result of my inspiration stimuli, as it tends to come from deep within and is a more subconscious process.

Sometimes though, the feelings awakened are akin to a sort of longing, somewhat similar to the feeling I sometimes experienced as a teenager. It’s an undefined longing and a slightly sad and pensive feeling. This tends to inspire more philosophical thoughts. A vast expanse of sea or landscape can cause this. Other times the stimuli can awaken my curiosity (my scientific side?) and I start asking questions – How? Why? – I want to know more…

Inspiration, although fickle, can also be a circular process. Being inspired leads you to do things that in turn inspire you further. Maybe you see a photograph of a place, which inspires you to travel, and in turn, travelling inspires you to take great photos…. I find that once I open myself to inspiration and start the creative process, the more I become inspired. If it goes on for some time, it can become almost feverish. Break this cycle though and it stops very quickly.

Of course, without inspiration, there would be no art. There would be no passion. And without art and passion, there would be no inspiration, no ‘Ah!’ moment.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer

Exhibition 20 June – 17 July ’09 – De Etalage, Montfoort

I am very pleased to announce that, half way through my exhibition at ‘De Etalage’ in Montfoort, the Netherlands (20 Jun – 17 Jul), I have had a lot of positive comments about my work and have sold my first photo.

De Etalage, Montfoort, Netherlands (20 Jun - 17 Jul 2009)

De Etalage, Montfoort, Netherlands (20 Jun - 17 Jul 2009)

The photo sold was ‘Scar’, one of my favourites from the Inspired By Nature series.

 Scar - Inspired By Nature series

The advantage of photo’s is that, even if I sell a favourite, I still can keep a copy for myself! Also, the same image can come in different sizes.

If you would like to go to the exhibition of my work at ‘De Etalage’, please call +31 (0)348 469499 for an appointment. More details can be found on the ‘Exhibitions’ page on this blog.

And finaly….. More good news on the DESigns front: last week I received a new commission – a tetraptych of four 90cm x 30cm canvases. This will be a longer term project, so I will fill you in with more details on this at a later stage.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer