Three guest residents and 43 artists will open their studios at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the coming days. For some freshmen, who only started in January, the stressful open days come a little early. Residents finishing their second and final year at the Rijksakademie can show the masses that they are ready for the future.
The artists at Rijksakademie come from all over the world. And this year’s batch makes it clear that nature and technology, art and engagement are not connected at all. In addition to study presentations, there are joint cooking sessions, film and performance programs.
study 31, ground floor
Wouter van der Laan
Everything is possible on a woodcut from the 16th century by Hans Sebald Beham: a workshop filled with spinning wheels, spinning sticks, wool balls and a ceramic stove becomes a place where you can let go in an erotic sense. Wouter van der Laan (1993) presented an overview of copies of ‘ghost limbs’, as he calls them, at the former Rijksopen. A Thonet chair next to a spacious object by Katarzyna Kobro, a soft hug and a spinning wheel with a doll behind it. The starting point was a historical print.
Also in the presentation now, the starting point is something that already exists, but which – frayed from each other and put back together – becomes something completely different. In the case of Van der Laan, Sebald’s workshop has been recreated in three dimensions, with the green ceramic kiln made by himself as magnum opus. The men and women who tumble over each other in Sebald’s print are absent. Those people, he says, may come in the evening or in the near future. Then they throw away everything that holds them back and follow their instincts – secretly or not.
studio 18, second floor
In the studio of the Egyptian artist Hend Samir (1986), everything revolves around painting: liquid, smooth, wet-in-wet painting. At last year’s opening days, Samir stunned with giant paintings – and with them she won the Royal Prize for Free Painting. This year – it is possible – she has surpassed herself by choosing calm in all opulence.
On the again huge canvases, the ocher yellow, gray-white, a touch of azure blue and fluttering purple swirls towards you. In the paint surface, which looks like wild sea foam, delicate figures and faces emerge. Some have mask-like faces, others are involved in erotic activities or simply care for each other’s feet. Samir often paints his huge formats on the floor, pours the paint over the surface and then begins to touch, sweep, mix. The amazing thing is that her paintings have become more abstract. Figuration is there, like a jack out of a box, but it’s less important. Samir’s favorite philosopher, she once said in an interview, is the Egyptian Plotinus, who stated that everything in the world comes from one source. And that’s what her work sublimely depicts.
study 45, Stable
The work of artist Peng Zhang (1990), a trained painter in China, proves that a kitchen garden can be a paradise. In one of the studios in the old stables of the Rijksakademie complex, Zhang poured black soil into large pine troughs, in which he drew geometric shapes and created enigmatic patterns with small stones. Zhang has carefully kneaded and described the earth, laid it up in circular terraces or excavated it. The young green of a snail’s head and the dark green of watercress stand in stark contrast to the ground.
Moving past Zhang’s work is like reading a book in a magical language. Zhang calls himself a “peasant artist” trying to bring to life the memories of his southern Chinese village background. Therefore, he has also hung adventurous watercolors around the kitchen garden, which exude the same enchantment as the garden. A rabbit jumps around and fish jump from one pond to another. You could take it as a symbol of the two worlds that Zhang must always relate to.
study 29, third floor
Last year, Russian-Dutch Polina Medvedeva showed the bittersweet film in her studio But that was later, when they already had a name for us† That film followed four Russian women living in the Netherlands. What do they encounter about prejudice? What is wonderful here, and how much does Mother Russia miss?
Medvedeva’s current presentation is less straightforward – and more gloomy.
Her new work covers the entire attic. As a visitor, you are part of the work and you put it into action. With a specially designed antenna and headphones on, you can wander around. An exploded washing machine – the result of a bomb attack – stands right after the entrance. There is also a comfortable seat in every corner. Table lamps create atmosphere. You walk along walls, and then – suddenly – it starts rattling. Through that noise, words are formed, conversations with complete strangers that you overhear. It is not difficult to see in Medvedeva’s new work a reference to the situation in Russia today, where much of the Stalinist era is returning, including wiretapping and fear.
photos Olivier Middendorp
Read all about last year’s winners of the Royal Prize: ‘The winners of the Royal Prize show courage to join the painting cannon’