“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 will go on show – from 24 April onwards.
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.
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.
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