November 26, 2013

Not Dutch enough

Photo by Koen de Wit

In my previous post "Let me tell you about the birds and the bees" I shared some photos I made during my visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Next to all the animals I spotted, I was really enjoying the restored architecture.
The monumental ornaments in the Gallery of Honour, the Front Hall, the Night Watch Gallery and the stairwells are returned to their original glory. Why they ever left beats me, but I'm happy they returned!

"The architect, Pierre Cuypers, had drawn up a historic design for the Rijksmuseum, which combined the Gothic and the Renaissance styles. The design was not generally well-received; people considered it too mediaeval and not Dutch enough. The official opening took place in 1885.
The current renovation reinstates the original Cuypers structure...Paintings, applied art and history are no longer displayed in separate parts of the building, but form a single chronological circuit that tells the story of Dutch art and history.
The building is thoroughly modernized, while at the same time restoring more of Cuypers original interior designs."
First thing that caught my eye in this text is that people considered it not Dutch enough. It is very Dutch to find something not Dutch enough or un-Dutch.
As you might imagine I was looking up a lot to admire the patterned filled ceilings. I even totally forgot to make pictures in the library. I remember imprinting the patterns in my mind, yet I didn't make one photo there, strange... Good thing you can see it on the Rijksmuseum site, "Cuypers Library".

What I also really liked about the new Rijksmuseum was the giftshop. Not just postcards and books with artworks, but magnets, buttons, umbrellas, dresses, jewelry, all sorts of stationary stuff, toys, you name it they had it. I treated myself to Pierre Cuypers wrapping paper. I don't know if I can put myself to actually wrapping something with it...I love that they used all his patterns to make this patterned filled paper. On the photo the wrapping paper is in the good company of fabric from the market full of Butterflies, a wooden batik stamp from Taman Indonesia and two roles of washi tape from De Vlieger. All holiday souvenirs. Can't wait till our next holiday!

On the NAI site I found this color scheme for the Rijksmuseum. Their website is really well to see more sketches and things like that go to and

* More information on the Rijksmuseum website,

November 19, 2013

Batik Statement XVII

Foto bersama Pak Sigit Witjaksono, pemilik tempat pembatikan khas lasem "Sekar Kencana".

cc Sabine Bolk Remember this person?

When I saw this picture on Facebook, it made me so happy. I met Mr. Sigit Witjaksono myself in Lasem. He didn't remember us meeting, Aris wrote to me, which doesn't surprise me, because he is like a living legend getting visitors all the time.
In the wonderful documentary "Batik, Our Love Story" they also visit Mr. Sigit. He is such a strong character, I found it reassuring to find out that he is just very temperamental. His love for Batik, and especially Batik Lasem is strong. And how he talks about it is inspiring. I only met him shortly but I remember it very clearly. Also I still cherish the Batik I bought there.

Aris Yaitu's meeting with Mr. Sigit Witjaksono was part of the Widya Mitra Heritage Walk. Great to hear that this legacy is shared with younger generations. And great that the young artist Aris Yaitu, who I met in Semarang, makes the same journey as I did in 2009 to Lasem.* I hope the Batik Lasem legacy will continue and be kept alive for many generations to come!

This photos wasn't send to me as an official Batik Statement, but when I also received the photo by snailmail with a nice artcard by Aris, I knew that this is a very important statement. Two artists, beginning and legend, traditional and contemporary, sharing the same heritage, making a Batik Statement!

Post package from Aris Yaitu

Photo by Tommas Titus, October 2009

* More about my visit to Lasem in October of 2009 see my blogposts "Route to Lasem" and "Batik Lasem"

November 6, 2013

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees

What is no longer important in five years? This haunting question stands on the Simplify Your Life weekplanner I got with my Flow (magazine)*. The first thing I thought was that I would still found nature important. It startled me that it wasn't Art. But in five years I'm sure Art will still be my life. I'm not so scared for the future of Art, maybe my path in it, but not the existence of Art itself. We just need it. It's our way to express and learn about ourselves, our emotions, our society and that of others, and of course to understand nature.
I do fear the future of nature. I believe that nature can endure anything, yet I have the fear we might win our battle against the forces of nature.
What will happen with Art if our favorite subject disappears? About a year ago I made the decision to use my Art as a way to help my muze(s). I'm already trying the same for Batik by reading, learning and blogging about it. For nature I try it with neighborhood participation projects. By improving a little part of my city I hope to give our other inhabitants a home.
During my and Koen's short holiday in september we went to Artis, Taman Indonesia and the, restored to its former glory, Rijksmuseum**. When I looked back at the photos I made during that week, I noticed that I hadn't stop spotting animals when I was looking at our Dutch history of Art. It also became clear to me that in our history nature always was import, what changed?
I have one answer for the question, that answers this and the question I started this blogpost with: Money. Can we forget about our crisis and just plants some bulbs instead? I believe that we feel much happier in a greener then in a richer world. Why else is our history filled with Art of nature?

Greenhouse in the garden of the Rijksmuseum

"Tea Brick", by Ai Weiwei 2006

At the asian pavilion

Delftware birdcage

Lacquer box at the asian pavilion

Java Sparrows, detail from Oriental Screen

Details from cabinets from around 1700 made with the marqueterie technique.* I wrote about one of these cabinets before, see blogpost "Traditional Dutch", but photographing wasn't allowed. Now you can take pictures of everything at the Rijks. Which is great, because I can get all these details for you!

Using different pieces of wood, like a mosaic, decorations are made on the cabinets. The decorations are mostly of plants, birds and insects, both indigenous and exotic.
In the last photo you see a goldfinch, it's made lifelike. Really amazing, what a craftsmanship! So if you're at the Rijks make sure to look at the cabinets!

By Jan Davidsz de Heem, 1660-c. 1683

By Jan van Kessel, c. 1660-65

The Rijks has of course a really nice collection of paintings. Next to the well known paintings, they have a brilliant collection of still lifes. Vanitas with fallen glasses, skulls, hourglasses and other symbolic things for the temporary state of life. And ones filled with flowers and insects. I wish I could photograph the butterflies in my garden like they are painted here!

Dinnerware by Th.A.C. Colenbrander, 1886

Bear by Ernest Chaplet, c. 1891-1895

"Weeping and captive caryatids: Remorse and Penance", by Artus Quellinus, 1650

* More about Flow on And Flow created a line of products for the Rijskmuseum giftshop
** More about the Rijksmuseum on
*** More cabinets made using the marqueterie technique can be found in the online collection of the Rijksmuseum

November 4, 2013

Vlisco Unfolded

The new Vlisco collection Celebrate celebrates the art of drawing. The focus for the campaign is on the designers. It is their different styles that makes the typical Vlisco patterns so recognizable. In the Vlisco Unfolded exhibition this aspect of Vlisco was also nicely shown. In my previous post "Natural Dye + Wax Print + Sweaters" I mentioned that I visited the Dutch Design Week twice and both times I went to the IGLUU.

Last week I saw different overviews on different blogs of this exhibition.* My overview of the exhibition is more a detailview. The moment a pattern comes to life starts long before a beautiful model shows it in an even more beautiful dress. It starts when the designer puts his pencil to paper.
That Vlisco now focus on this part of their heritage is a great treat for me. On Vlisco V-inspired you can read interviews with their designers and find an overview of the Unfolded exhibition.

When I went to the Vlisco exhibition in Arnhem last year I was intrigued by Johan Jacobs sketchbooks (see "Johan Jacobs sketchbooks". Now the exhibition was full with todays sketches. With little notes in the sidelines (see "Making notes"). From the early days they showed display cabinets full of books with samples of chintz, batiks and other parts of fabrics from 1850 till 1950.
I overheard people talking about the resemblances the designs shows with Batik. And that they don't really get it, they ask each other if the proces, the making of the fabric is similar as well.
These questions didn't really get answered. Vlisco history starts in 1846, but they start their story much later, when their history with West Africa starts. That's fine, but it makes the Dutch connection with Vlisco difficult. People here think, Ow exotic fabrics from/for Africa, but then they recognize these Indonesian patterns and learn that Vlisco is based in Helmond and they can't put it together.
For me the journey Vlisco made, from the Netherlands, to the Dutch Indies, ending on the Cold coast, is what makes it so special. All these cultures, this shared heritage in one fabric. For those who paid attention, this shared heritage was found everywhere in the exhibition, you just have to look a little closer.

* See