He calls himself a storyteller. Karel Kindermans makes drawings where you can almost say with a good poem: see, there is more than you can see. Because of their layering, his drawings tell a story, and that is precisely the intention. That any image actually requires an active seeing attitude is what drives him and what he wants to convey.
With the help of Lauran Toorians
Karel Kindermans has already made it clear that seeing is more than seeing, and that it requires an active attitude in the Beeldkraken project, an educational project that he made in 2014 in collaboration with Atlas van Stolk and Kunsthal Rotterdam. There was already a collaboration with Atlas van Stolk, for Kindermans made twenty new school posters for the Dutch canon, and these too are layered drawings that invite – if not force – to look closely.
Karel Kindermans was born in 1966 in Vlaardingen. When he was seven, the family moved to Aalst near Eindhoven, and he grew up there. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Breda and the Graphic Arts School in Eindhoven and then the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. There he continued to live and work. According to his own website, he was born a ‘marker by hand’, and although graphic, digital techniques are an important part of his work, he initially draws everything by hand.
During the corona period, he went into the city to record the effects of the pandemic, and that work is also included in Atlas van Stolk, one of the largest and most important image collections in the Netherlands. Recently, the atlas (not so much short, but mainly print) has been at home at Rotterdam Library and on July 6, Kindermans’ wallet will also be published. Holland in Corona times included in this collection.
Another project that has already received attention in Brabant Cultureel is the drawings he made for an exhibition on ‘Christianity and anti-Semitism’, which was shown at Museum Sjoel Elburg in 2017. A historical exhibition on a charged subject where the pictures do not should only be historically justified, but – as Kindermans explains – some historians involved should also be drawn over the threshold. For it is possible to make such a thing ‘in pictures’, and it is necessary. The result provided an affirmative answer to both questions and again shows that looking requires effort. You have to learn to crack pictures, and you have to actively collect information, that’s exactly what ‘reading’ means.
There is currently an exhibition in galerieWind on Noordereiland in Rotterdam, which gives a good overview of Kindermans’ work. Here also free work, some early illustrations by Don Quixote from la Mancha, pictures he made for the Volkskrant for the Perpetua series – classics from world literature – and author portraits for first Algemeen Dagblad and later de Volkskrant. The whole thing is a varied exhibition that asks to be enjoyed quietly but actively.
In 1904, Abraham Tuschinski (1886-1942) arrived as an emigrant from the Polish city of Łódź in Rotterdam. His destination was America, where he hoped to establish himself as a tailor. But there was no immediate opportunity to make the great crossing, and Tuschinski and his wife remained ‘stuck’ in what would later become Manhatten aan de Maas. While waiting for a transfer to New York, he found work as a tailor, and not much later, he started with his wife Hotel Polski as a kosher refuge for Eastern European migrants.
His entrepreneurial spirit, which was clearly his own, led him to open his first cinema in 1911, Thalia, on the site of Rotterdam’s town hall. A year later, Thalia moved to Hoogstraat, then the largest shopping street in Rotterdam. It became a luxury cinema and Tuschinski did his best to attract the better middle class with great success. Several cinemas soon followed in Rotterdam and in 1921 also the famous and still existing Theater Tuschinski in Amsterdam. We now associate the name Tuschinski with that city, but the origin is therefore in Rotterdam.
During the bombing of Rotterdam on May 4, 1940, all of Abraham Tuschinski’s cinemas in Rotterdam were lost, and his name eventually disappeared from the city’s memory. That is changing now. The historian André van der Velden researched this history and in collaboration with the Rotterdam City Archives, there is now a city walk along the – now completely changed – places where Tuschinksi once left his mark, all supported by drawings by Karel Kindermans. The project has not yet been completed, and a book by Van der Velden will also be published next year. Abraham Tuschinski himself was brought to Westerbork on 1 July 1942 and then deported to Auschwitz, where he was assassinated.
Anitism and the fate of the Jews in history seem to be a recurring theme in Karel Kindermans’ work. This is not how he sees it himself and maybe it’s more about being aware of people who have been less fortunate in life. So compassion. What may play a role in the background is a memory of his mother who as a child saw a neighbor being picked up and taken away. That neighbor was Jewish, but that was a meaningless word for the girl. It was just a sweet neighbor she would later know why this fate befell her.
It becomes clear that the apple does not fall far from the tree when we know that mother Kindermans works as an artist under her maiden name Joke Blok. She makes etchings and finished her Civil etching book, a search for the truth and meaning of life, performed in dozens of multicolored etchings with handwritten texts – etched, then originally in mirror image – and inspired, among other things, by her skewed childhood memory. After the completion of this titanic work, there was an exhibition and a limited edition of facsimile edition. Anna van der Burgt wrote about this in 2004 in Brabant Cultureel (then still on paper).
This Civil etching book is included in the collection of the Museum Meermanno / Huis van het Boek in The Hague, the oldest book museum in the world. It is an honor that his son Karel Kindermans is rightly proud of. He is now also trained by his mother to master the art of etching. Printing in particular requires great skill, but once it is there, there will probably be a completely different picture of Kindermans.
‘Karel Kindermans, storyteller’, until 31 July 2022 in galerieWind, Prins Hendrikkade 124a, Rotterdam.
Also read in Brabant Cultural†
Image squatting with Karel Kindermans
Karel Kindermans depicts a difficult relationship between Christianity and anti-Semitisme
© Brabant Cultural 2022