It’s Advent time again, and so it is time for the fourth edition of Art Advent, my annual review of inspiring, cheerful and comforting artworks that I’ve seen over the year. Advent is a time of anticipation, and of light in the darkness. Although 2020 has given the notion of anticipation a whole new face, I believe there will always be art waiting around the corner to provide solace and new insights. Thus, also in this year of self-isolation and uncertainty, I hope you’ll join me on this Art Advent.
(Daily updates on my social media, weekly posts here on the blog).
29 Nov. ART ADVENT #1. As many of you know, London has a special place in my life. While 2020 is drawing to a close, my heart is beginning to ache to see London again. No artwork resonates more with this mutual feeling of love and ache, than Tracy Emin’s “I want my time with you”. The neon sentence hangs in the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancrass – for me the quintessential welcome upon arrival in the city. London, I dearly want my time with you. I await in anticipation.
Tracy Emin, I want my time with you, 2018. Seen at St. Pancrass, London.
30 Nov. ART ADVENT #2. This is just a small detail of a tapestry of seven meters long. The quasi-saintly woman is holding a purse close to her heart, shedding a tear as if she thinks about losing her beloved possession. She is reminiscent of Mary during lamentation or pieta scenes. The artist, Grayson Perry, deliberately echoes such iconic scenes in this tapestry that deals with consumerism as a new religion. While the small human figures go about their daily life, they are randomly accompanied by brand names like Thomas Cook, Saab, Louis Vuitton or Ikea. In this tapestry, Perry observes how brands have become a fundamental part of life. In doing so, he also delivers a critique with the human obsession with brands and the extent we draw our identity from such brands. Do we know who we are without them?
Grayson Perry, The Walthamstow Tapestry, detail, 2009. Seen at Bonnefanten, Maastricht.
1 Dec. ART ADVENT #3. With her eyes closed, this lady seems to be in a meditative state. Above both her shoulders, passion flowers are located. Traditionally this flower is the symbol of Christ’s suffering. Within the Theosophical movement, founded late nineteenth century, it more generally stood for the desire to reach a higher spiritual state. Artist Piet Mondrian was a lifelong member of the Theosophical movement – and the spiritual plays an important role in both his figurative and later abstract work. A pianist friend modelled for this drawing, so Mondrian told someone years later when he lived in New York.
Piet Mondrian, Passionflower, 1901-1908. In collection of Kunstmuseum Den Haag, seen at Singer Museum, Laren.
2 Dec. ART ADVENT #4. Born Marjorie Jewel Moss, around 1919 this artist changed their name to Marlow Moss and adopted a masculine appearance. As you’ll be able to tell from this painting, Moss was acquainted with Piet Mondrian. They mutually influenced their painting styles, Moss influencing Mondrian with the use of the thin double line. Moss lived a reclusive lifestyle in Cornwall, despite frequent visits to Paris, and didn’t produce a huge oeuvre. A neighbour described how Moss would give all the children in the village a present at christmas time. Which makes it, in my view, a most suitable Advent window.
Marlow Moss, White, Black, Red and Grey, 1932. Seen at Kunstmuseum Den Haag.
3 Dec. ART ADVENT #5. Everytime I look at this painting, it makes me smile. It perfectly represents how life can feel sometimes, especially during this strange year. A sense of beauty or fun can bring solace, even (or perhaps especially) when everything is upside down. I love the work of this painter, Helen Verhoeven. There so much to experience in her work. This painting is part of an installation titled Church I, in which you are surrounded by paintings and sculptures in a world away from this one.
Helen Verhoeven, Church I, detail, 2017. Seen at Bonnefanten, Maastricht.
4 Dec. ART ADVENT #6. Le Corbusier is best known for his visionary architecture. But, as it turns out, he was also into textile art! He regarded tapestries as a variety of mural paintings and called them ‘muralnomads’. Especially, because people living in urban areas take their belongings (such as tapestries) when they move from one house to the next. In this lifestyle, not only people, but also objects become nomads. This tapestry features three figures: a woman, a blacksmith and an ungulate. I love how the colored planes form architectural elements, while the human figures are so statuesque. When I first saw it, I would have never guessed it was by Le Corbusier, which makes this artwork extra memorable.
Le Corbusier, The Woman and the Blacksmith (design 1958, made 1967). Seen Kunsthal, Rotterdam.
5 Dec. ART ADVENT #7. Ever since my first visit to the Museum for Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Utrecht (AAMU) in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by Aboriginal Art from Australia. The AAMU was founded by private collectors, with the aim to display contemporary Aboriginal art as art – and not primarily as ethnographic objects. It opened new worlds for me. One of the things I find so interesting, is that paintings like these embody indigenuous knowledge, about the land and indigenuous traditions. This one is about women’s knowledge of where to find and prepare sweet potatoes and other produce. Sadly, in 2017 the AAMU had to close due to lack of structural funding. The collection was transferred to the Tropenmuseum and is now part of the collection of the Museum of World Cultures. Of course, it is great the collection could be preserved for the public, yet, I still really miss the unique museum that was the AAMU.
Muntja Nungurrayi, Jupiter Well, 1996. Seen at Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam.