Galleri Lukisan, specializing in contemporary art from Southeast Asia, settled in Bergen op Zoom in 2019. The gallery has been around for some time and represents established and emerging artists from Indonesia, but also from, for example, Vietnam. An ideal site turned out to be available in Bergen op Zoom, and the town offers access to both Flanders and the Randstad.
With the help of Albert Hagenaars (text and images)
There was joy in cultural circles in Bergen op Zoom and the surrounding area when Galleri Lukisan established itself in the city in 2019 with an ambitious programme. It was therefore intended, after a year, in an interview, to establish how the initiators, Sander Salim, originally from Bandung, and Roel van Veggel, born in Tilburg, had fared in the Scheldt city. But then Covid 19 hit…
Now, more than two years later, a careful balance can still be drawn up, this time linked to Lukisan’s tenth anniversary. However, the gallery is older. In the first years, from 2008, it was located in Dublin, Van Veggel’s then workplace. Four years later Lukisan moved to Amsterdam, then to Neerijnen and finally Bergen op Zoom, where Salim and Van Veggel not only organize exhibitions but also make their space available for other initiatives. For example, recently a book presentation by artist/poet/musician Fred de Ron and the production Bits of Hades by Theatergroep Honger, which was performed several times to sold-out audiences.
The gallery’s name, Lukisan, has several meanings, primarily painting, but it also indicates sketch, drawing, figure and representation. And that’s appropriate given the variety, not only in themes but also in working methods. The division of roles between the two gallerists is simple. Van Veggel: “Sander does most of the work, he is the creative brain. He maintains contact with the artists and develops the exhibitions. I stay in the background and do what I can if necessary.”
When asked what Lukisan’s goals are, Salim replies: “We focus on contemporary art from Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on Indonesia. We want to show a modern, self-aware and developing Indonesia with all the social, religious and cultural challenges that come with it. As mentioned, we also focus on the surrounding countries, such as Vietnam. We represent that country with work by, among others, Nguyen Dinh Vu. We work with both established artists and young talents. It is important that they have a critical view of social issues and comment on religious influences, diversity, tolerance and the environment.”
To what extent are there opportunities at Lukisan for contributions from Dutch or more broadly European artists?
“We also like to work with artists from here, yes, as long as they feel related to our principles. We have already shown works by Indonesian artist Edith Bons (Delft), Surabaya-born Jan Wessendorp (Bergen op Zoom) and Indonesian Juni Kusumanto, who has been active in Roosendaal for decades. Our dividing lines are preferably not sharply defined.”
“It is fascinating to see how different the perspectives are on Indonesia’s history and the common colonial past. Indian artists and totox (loosely translated: cheeseheads • ah) usually have a different outlook than their Indonesian counterparts, leading to fascinating creative results.”
Salim says that Van Veggel and he experienced an exciting time between 2006 and 2008 at their former place in Jakarta. After the dictatorship of the Suharto regime, many experiments with democracy occurred. There were art festivals like the Biennale in Yogyakarta, the city also considered the capital of at least Javanese culture thanks to the leading art academy ISI and many galleries. New forms of expression emerged, which led to an exuberant creative flourishing. Artists also regularly involve local people in their projects.
The network that was burgeoning for Lukisan at the time continued to grow strongly and was therefore extended to West Brabant. Therefore, works by Agung Kurniawan, Prihatmoko Moki, Yoga Mahendra and others can now be seen here. These are probably still unfamiliar names to most visitors. However, some have already acquired a familiar sound in their own country.
When asked about the nature and frequency of activities, Salim explains: “The first years in the Netherlands mainly involved participating in art fairs in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, an average of four per year. Since we have been in Bergen op Zoom, our aim has been to organize a new exhibition every six to eight weeks. Fortunately, we are now back on the rhythm of bi-monthly exhibitions. The last exhibition is called Merdeka, which means Freedom. On August 17, 1945, leaders Sukarno and Hatta declared independence. That day is one of the most important holidays in the country, if not the most important.”
Why was Bergen op Zoom specifically chosen, after all, a small provincial town? Despite bold private initiatives, especially from groups like SynapsZ, Krot & Co and Arsis, the place is certainly not known as a place of innovation. She likes to describe herself as the ‘City of procession and play’. Although this description does not exclude modern art, the association with tradition is stronger than with the urge to experiment.
Salim’s eyes start to sparkle: “We were looking for a building with a face where we could combine living and exhibiting. We received information about the coat of arms of France in Moeregrebstraat, where in the Middle Ages ‘de lobsterd’ or a Lombard financial institution was located. For us, the church behind the house was a bull’s eye. See how tall the showroom is and how beautifully it is crowned by the ornate ridge. And what about the underground rooms?”
With outstretched arms, he shows the connected vaulted cellars, from the church all the way to the street. In fact, they appear smart and beautifully lit, particularly suitable for sculptures and installations. The adjacent garden with a spacious seating area completes the picture. Activities can also take place here, but it is clear that this is an excellent place for informal contacts, spontaneous meetings.
Salim continues: “Oh yes, important, I also have to mention that we are getting increasing interest from Belgium, which makes the location in Bergen op Zoom, located between Vlaamse Ruit on one side and Randstad on the other, an added advantage . .”
What are the positive and negative experiences so far with Lukisan in Bergen op Zoom?
Van Veggel: “It is absolutely positive that the gallery is increasingly visited by curious passers-by, but also by gourmets who sometimes come from afar. We notice that our themes, especially the combination projects, are catching on. We want to grow. It would be nice if the number of collectors/buyers increased.”
“Negative experiences? Corona was of course bad, but not tied to place. After the shutdowns, it is important to put art back on the map more emphatically and excite the public. It requires interaction with various institutions and initiatives.”
How is the relationship in this new phase between Lukisan and other cultural clubs in the city and the region in that regard?
“Here, too, the parties find each other better and better. We are open to both random and structured forms of cooperation. So organizations and artists in North Brabant, if you are reading this and have plans that fit our principles, please let us know. This also applies to anyone who feels attracted to our principles. Better yet, stop by! Look what it is!“
Photo cover: Van Veggel and Salim in the former Protestant church, now a gallery space. Photo > Painting
© Brabant Cultural 2022