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


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

Quotes on Art

“The key to a good painting is knowing where to start, how to keep going and when to stop.” Dieuwke Swain

“The artist is just the tool connecting the inner eye to the brush. Sometimes though, he’s not the right tool for the job.” Dieuwke Swain

“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.” Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Science seeks to explain the ‘how’ of life, art seeks to illustrate the ‘why’.” Dieuwke Swain

“Art puts a magnifying glass to life, science uses a microscope.” Dieuwke Swain

“It’s not quite what I had in mind, but I like it.” Dieuwke Swain