2021: A Colourful Nation – Kleur Bekennen
The Works of Leon van den Eijkel – A Retrospective
24 April - 25 July, 2021
Māpuna Kabinet art gallery, Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom
Leon van den Eijkel’s brightly coloured works are often tinged with humour and irreverence, as he attempts to capture the anarchic and wild essence of Aotearoa – with a finely honed and highly structured Dutch cultural mindset. An impressive retrospective of his paintings and sculptures has been curated by Oranjehof and is on show from 24 April to 25 July.
Unfortunately Leon can never admire his own Retrospective, as he passed away on Thursday 15 April. More on that sad development at the bottom of this page.
The foundations of Leon’s work are deeply rooted in the style set by fellow Dutch artist Mondriaan. But he uses his own vibrant ‘Pacific Palette’ to surprise and delight his audiences.
A 'Stijl' of his own
Leon’s quirky sculptures can be found on the Wellington waterfront, new suburbs like Auckland’s Hobsonville, and the Gibbs Farm sculpture park – where his giant ‘Red Cloud Confrontation’ features side by side with some of the world's most significant artists in a gently undulating landscape.
Leon calls his Pacific colours art a dialogue between European modernism and southern hemisphere environment. ‘A Colourful Nation – Kleur Bekennen’ shows Leon’s development after his arrival in New Zealand in the 1980s. Seeing his work evolve and transition from the 1980s onwards, gives the impression that the freedom Leon found in Aotearoa – with its dazzling light, colours and untamed landscapes – enabled and stimulated him to gradually step away ever further from his organised, structured, disciplined Dutch urban background. In doing so, he found new ways to express who and what we are – as a colourful, multi-cultural nation.
A transformation - Inspired by Aotearoa
Leon burst on to the Aotearoa New Zealand art scene in the mid-1990s, with several major exhibitions. Works that haven’t been seen by the public since then, are brought out from Te Papa to cover his artistic journey from his formative years to today.
The opening of ‘A Colourful Nation – Kleur Bekennen’ will coincide with the first ever ‘Dutch Week’ in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the unveiling of a 50m mural by Leon’s friend and fellow artist Jan van der Ploeg from Amsterdam, on the Oranjehof wall of the Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom building.
“To the rationalism of a distinctly European modernism, van den Eijkel adds the chaotic excess of a Pacific post-modernism. Not only is this manifested in his discovery of a new, more expansive palette, but it is also evidenced in the multiple, three dimensional form of the work.”
Christina Barton, 1995, Curator Contemporary Art, on ‘MondriAn after MondriAAn’ in Te Papa
A Sad Development - Thursday 15 April, 2021
It is with great sadness that we have to share the news of Leon van den Eijkel’s passing. A truly outstanding artist and dear friend to many, Leon left us peacefully on Thursday evening, 15 April. He was truly looking forward to join everybody at the opening of 'Colourful Nation', and it is a cruel twist of fate that he cannot be part of that career highlight.
It was an honour and a privilege to work with Leon, especially over the last 10 months or so, when we were curating his retrospective: ‘Colourful Nation – Kleur Bekennen’.
We discussed whether the the 3-month exhibition, in the Māpuna Kabinet art gallery in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, should go ahead. Together with the family, the decision was made that Leon would have wanted it that way.
Colourful Nation is a celebration of Leon’s life and work, giving people a hint of his early years as an artist – and the brilliantly colourful transformation he underwent as a post-modern multimedia artist in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We aim to put Leon’s memory in the limelight, and honour his life in the arts. ‘Kleur Bekennen’ will showcase his impressive artistic legacy – through a number of works from Te Papa and private collections.
His cheeky sense of humour and his philosophical nature made Leon a dear friend of many. Thankfully, we can all pay our respects in a way he would have loved – in his virtual presence – in a beautiful art show. He will be smiling down upon us…
Goede vriend, we zullen je missen. We zijn allemaal bedroefd. Maar de herinnering aan je humor en je grappige grijns zullen ons altijd bijblijven.
Shine and Shadows: Spelen met Licht
Exquisite jewellery – Shining its glittery lights in Foxton
There’s jewellery, and then there is ‘art jewellery’. The differences between the two are vast. And that really showed, in the new exhibition ‘Parallax: Shine and Shadows – Spelen met Licht’ in the Mapuna Kabinet gallery in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom.
The official opening by Ambassador Mira Woldberg, took place on Saturday 17 October, 2020 at 1 pm.
“Dutch artists since Rembrandt’s days have been fond of the concept of ‘spelen met licht’ – or playing with light,” says jeweller Peter Deckers. “We joined up as one painter and three jewellers, to do exactly that. By coming together in Parallax, we’ve created something unique.”
The art on display in the gallery, was all about illusion. The shine and glitter of jewellery played with your imagination. The artworks were surrounded by the shadows and colourful hues of moody paintings by Gerda Leenards, that worked on the emotions.
The artists who came together in the Parallax group exhibition, love to work with light, ideas, concepts, and interesting new angles to look at things.
“The vibes of our show are pure Aotearoa, but with deep Dutch roots,” says Peter. “Some might say, that it’s all about heritage and discipline – set free in an edgy land far from everywhere else, that’s full of boundless energy and freedom from stifling traditions.”
A slightly different cultural heritage
The Parallax group exhibition shows how the artistic heritage of two nations can influence each other. One draws on another – to create something new and exciting, with an identity of its own. “The concept of ‘Parallax’ is all about how the appearance of objects changes, if you change your position,” says Peter. “After all, the way you view your surroundings, alters what you actually see.”
“By bringing four different artists together, various perspectives of mood and transformation are presented, so we can hopefully come to see our everyday reality in a different perspective.”
Parallax: Shine and Shadows – Spelen met Licht
Parallax distinguishes itself through the artists’ innovative ways in working with light and shadows. Each creates pieces with a clear Dutch heritage shining through in their art works.
Peter Deckers, Gerda Leenards, Moniek Schrijer, Nina van Duijnhoven
Anne Frank exhibition: ‘Let me be myself’
A challenge to prejudice and racism: 2019
The internationally successful and ground-breaking Anne Frank exhibition – ‘Let Me Be Myself’ – opened in Foxton on 1 November, 2019.
The dynamic exhibition created by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam had already visited 80 countries, and had been seen by more than 10 million people globally.
“This was a very important exhibition for us,” says Yolande van de Wetering, Co-Chair of the Oranjehof Dutch Connection Museum Trust. “I grew up in an era, when the story of Anne Frank and her diary was still very much front of mind.”
“The horrors of World War II and the 5-year German occupation were fresh in everybody’s memories in the Netherlands. Families would talk about their personal experiences, as many had been traumatised.
"In total some 250,000 Dutch people died – or one in every 40 people. And that included more than 100,000 Jews who were deported, and never returned from the death camps. Educating the younger generations about the ultimate consequences of racism is still very relevant today,” says Yolande.
The Diary of Anne Frank captures the real-life story of a young girl, in hiding with her family from the Nazis, in an attic in Amsterdam.
Using a combination of excerpts from Anne Frank’s famous diary, historical artefacts, pictures, video and testimony, the exhibition showed the life of the Frank family and the history of the era - engaging visitors in a discussion about how the same themes affect our modern world.
Drawing on the experiences of teenagers today, the exhibition also talked about disability, prejudice, homophobia and racism in the 21st century. It challenges the visitor to examine their own core, moral values.
Additional material – including a testimony from a Māori boy and a British immigrant girl – brought the New Zealand experience into sharp focus.
Rembrandt van Rijn - Digitally Remastered
Paintings from one of the world’s greatest artists: 2018
Rembrandt Remastered - with digitally remastered, life-size paintings - was on show from February to April, 2018.
As part of a touring international exhibition, the paintings were digitally reproduced after years of scholarly research and photography of over 300 of Rembrandt’s works. They looked as they would have, when they left Rembrandt’s studio some 400 years ago.
Gallery visitors had a rare opportunity to see high-quality, digitally remastered works from the great Dutch artist - right next door to Oranjehof, the home of Dutch heritage in New Zealand.
Rembrandt Remastered was brought to New Zealand by Agenda Ltd, in collaboration with the Rembrandt Project Foundation and Professor Ernst van de Wetering, Chair of the Rembrandt Project Foundation and acknowledged world specialist.
Welcome Aboard - Abel Tasman 2018
In 1642, Abel Tasman and 110 men set sail to on a journey of some 30,000 kilometers on two small wooden boats. No GPS. No weather forecasts. No communications. The roughest southern seas.
The Tasman Exhibition 'Welcome Aboard' was created in the Netherlands, Tasmania and Aotearoa, to tell that epic story - through the eyes of sailors on board of De Heemskerck and De Zeehaen. The encounter with the people of Ngāti Tumatakokiri in Mohua / Golden Bay and the Dutch was an important part of the story told in the exhibition. (Still available on loan.)
In a seminar hosted at the opening of the Exhibition, several experts focused on differents part of the Tasman story. Dave Horry presented insights about the sequence of events in Golden Bay, where he lives. Rudiger Mack showed a range of the evidence on Tasman from the international archives.
Patricia Wallace brought the Maori perspective, looking at the clothing Tumatakokiri were wearing back then. She showed how images of Māori in Abel Tasman's journal led to the recovery of a particular garment still worn by tangata whenua when James Cook reached New Zealand in 1769.