A broken heart often leads to something beautiful

Everything is love. It is not only the most beautiful thing there is, in the end it is all human is for love. But love also means pain, because it usually doesn’t turn out as you hope – let alone (romantic) roses.

The visit (2020), shot with an engineer’s field camera from the 1890s; a “symbolic depiction of the loss of freedom—that feels like losing love.”
Photo Esther van Waalwijk

An excellent theme for an exhibition because artists are ideally placed to capture these kinds of big themes in powerful images. Rietveldpaviljoen, the cultural center in a building designed by its namesake and located on the edge of Amersfoort’s historic center, shows in Impossible love work by 19 artists; a lot of photography, of course, in this home base of the 033fotostad-fonden (‘centre for photography and visual culture’), but also various other disciplines such as installations, objects, video and drawings.

Anyone who thinks that the exhibition mainly shows longing men or women watching their potential future life partner pass them by is wrong: the artists also emphatically show other forms of unattainable love, which makes this exhibition so versatile and interesting. For example, we see attempts to alleviate loneliness by bringing a lifelike doll into the house; in the color photographs of Claire Bontje (Plastic women) the beautiful ladies are clearly fulfilling an erotic need, but also take a look at the beautifully staged black-and-white portraits of photographer Hanneke Wetzer, who portrays herself in her series Living alone (together) takes a picture with the ‘girlfriend’ Nadiah bought during the corona era in all possible domestic settings – then her housemate is on the toilet, then they are chained on the floor, they eat a pizza together (with the cat as a neutral third party, who doesn’t seem to know any better ), or they take a smiling selfie. Beautifully executed, lifelike scenes where you as a spectator feel the loneliness of the lockdown seeping through.

One of the pictures in the series Living alone (together) by Hanneke Wetzer with ‘girlfriend’ Nadiah.
Photo Hanneke Wetzer


The installation is in motion My lost boys by Anna Skubisz, who at an earlier stage in her life felt that she had to choose between having children or going completely to be an artist – and decided on the latter. Now white, vulnerable boy figures hang in the air, symbolizing the offspring that never came. ‘If only she had…’ is the feeling that comes over you as a spectator as you carefully walk between the hovering children (the information board is deliberately suspended in such a way that you have to pass right through them), the pain of the work is almost palpable.

Pain is also visible in the portraits Hanna Jansen made of couples who have just separated, both ex-partners photographed separately. The frustration or sadness is expressed in everything, which is given an additional charge by the waves in the background: both man and woman, separated from each other, gave the course of their previous relationship by means of an up and down line. The various highs and lows (one clearly thought it was getting better, with the other you see the line steadily drop) make you feel like a relationship therapist as a voyeur of these broken hearts.

Wavelengths; portraits of former lovers with the progress of their relationship in the background.
Pictures Hanna Jansen

That was precisely the intention, says Rianne Walet, co-curator of together with director Hans van Helden Impossible love. “We wanted to make this big theme small and personal, so it gets closer to the audience.”

This theme gets an extra dimension thanks to the works of two internationally recognized artists who bring current events to the Rietveld pavilion: for example, the young Ukrainian photographer Anton Sjebetko, currently studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, portrayed LGBTI+ soldiers in Ukrainian army – in 2018, i.e. before Putin’s war. IN We were Lord we see veiled men and a single woman forced to hide their sexual identity (considered forbidden by the army there) but given the recognition they deserve in these images; not only to defend their country, but also to be human.

Fleeed from Iran

Also impressive are the works of transwoman Mehrak Dappeli, who fled Iran to the Netherlands in 2000 and fled to London a few years later. A red bleeding heart on which some of her severed locks are stuck, with the title Woman. Life. Freedom immediately plunges you into the current dire reality of Iranian women. But her two drawings also hit the spot: The first depicts her escape story, including the people who tortured her at the time; the second drawing shows a lonely Mehrak, sitting on a bench in the school yard in Ommen, and thus touches on the current fierce debate about asylum. The documentary based on these drawings is shown in a separate cinema Illumination of the soul to see. The eye-catching, meter-high, shiny installation is also her work; Davieli’s search for her own sexuality and femininity is depicted in undulating reflective material, which stands in stark contrast to the hard stone wall against which it is draped – the work, specially made for this location, shows “the contrast between hard and soft, masculine and feminine”. “.

The transwoman Mehrak Dawaaii, fled from Iran, shows his search for his sexuality and femininity with a large installation.

Own thoughts about love

A picnic area has been created in the corner of the pavilion’s top floor, complete with a working jukebox, to let the impressions sink in for a while. Smart idea to put up a wall right away where visitors can write their own thoughts on the theme of love on a note and hang it up, and one outpouring (“Honey my honey… where are you?!”) provokes the next . “We wanted to create an atmosphere of safety and security through the artworks, to be able to start a conversation about it,” explains curator Walet. “Human warmth” – that’s what it’s all about, she says. “Because with all the bumps and bruises we encounter along the way, of course we’re all looking for love.”

Trilogy Leda and the Swan after the Greek myth of the same name; this work by two artists from Eindhoven shows ‘a person longing for selfless love, as a woman and as a mother’.
Esther van Waalwijk & Hanneke Wetzer

Finally, the aphorisms of the young urban poet Twan Vets (1998) should not be mentioned: between the artworks, the visitor encounters texts such as I have been waiting for our happiness. / Now you’re Gone. That I you – how much I – why you – / I can’t get it said.

Which shows once again that a broken heart, no matter how bad and painful it is, often leads to something beautiful afterwards – especially if the unfortunate can lose themselves in the art.

Impossible love, until Sunday 5 February, Rietveldpaviljoen, Zonnehof 8, Amersfoort. www.033fotostad.com

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