While the second wave is passing over us, the museums in the Netherlands are opening up again after a two-week lock down, art is again at the people’s disposal.
In ONWARD&UPWARD – Art in the Garden of Life you can see how artists found comfort by creating their works, while dreaming or crying. For example, in the work of Joana Choumali from Ivory Coast, where she finds comfort by embroidering. Or the works of Margret Lansink, where she uses the Kintsugi method on photography to heal a relationship between mother and daughter. In the hyper realistic painting by Anya Janssen we see how identical twin sisters, growing up in a strict religious surrounding find hold together.
There is also spirituality in the exhibition. Levi van Veluw explores how various religions and spiritual movements around the world operate in the mind of the faithful through form and image. He wonders if he, as an artist, is able to create a convincing spiritual experience.
Consolation in times of uncertainty, but sometimes it is also allowed to scrape; we cannot ignore reality. In the stunning video of a mysterious swamp by Desiree Dolron, you might want to dream away, but in all its beauty decay is revealing itself. This art piece confronts us with our transience. Or take the hyper-realistic sculptures by Margriet van Breevoort, creatures that have something human, but not at all. They make you doubt your own reality for a moment. "ONWARD&UPWARD” shows vulnerability and strength. This combination is very present in the work of Yi Fei Chen who turned her tears into a weapon.
The exhibition shows the work of 21 artists, all set in an imaginary garden. “Il faut cultiver notre jardin”, a famous statement by Voltaire has become the motto of our exhibition: We must do what is within our power to change and improve the world, starting close to ourselves.
The garden is also a metaphor for this time of uncertainty. I came up with the idea when I was working in my own garden and saw how the weeds were growing and the courgettes had become far too big. A garden is beautiful but also requires a lot of maintenance. And not everything that shines is gold. Roses have nasty thorns, plants lose leaves and fungi are forced on them. A garden puts us to work. Yet it is a place that is moving, joyful, restful and…comforting.
So the visitors walk in a surrealistic garden between art that is close to our skin. I believe that this is how art is brought closer to people than hanging on clean white walls. As I see it, an exhibition is also a form of theatre in which the works of art are the players; content and play are paramount, the staging contributes to this. At the exhibition “NOW LOOK HERE - The African Art of Appearance" which I curated at the beginning of this year, the works of art were shown on different tinted canvases. Now we go a step further. Here we see the art between hedges, willow and bamboo.
Hopefully it will inspire us to go 'onward' and 'upward' in a world full of uncertainty.