With Lost in Flowers, Museum van Bommel van Dam in Venlo is not just presenting classic floral still lifes but an alternative, fresh look at the theme flowers: silicons, paint and yarns in the paintings by Arjan van Arendonk; the intriguing, transparent materiality of layered Japanese paper by Ellen Jess; the extreme enlargements in the photographs by Hildegard Monssen; the monumental, baroque photographic compositions by Margriet Smulders.
Since time immemorial, flowers have been a source of inspiration for the arts. Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the floral still lifes with daring colour combinations by Jan Sluijters, even an abstract artist like Piet Mondriaan was captured by them.
The composition of floral still lifes is and remains a popular activity for both painters and photographers. It offers the freedom to experiment in a great number of ways with colour, light and form. Lost in Flowers presents four artists who have an exceptionally personal interaction with nature and the world of flowers in particular.
Painter Arjan van Arendonk (Waalwijk, 1957) has for many years regularly employed fabrics with printed patterns as the substrate for his paintings. Each time, a fascinating, expressive exchange takes place between the background and foreground on his canvasses. This approach flows seamlessly into Van Arendonk’s vision that art has to be ’close by’. A number of years ago, he started to include – in addition to repeating decorative ready mades and acrylic – multi-coloured silicons in his compositions. These are kneaded pure, unmixed directly onto areas consciously left empty on the canvas. The atypical material in the artistic hands of Van Arendonk is literally and figuratively like whipped cream on a cake.
Ellen Jess (Schwerte – D, 1939) suddenly discovered the splendour of the iris in the Provence among the rugged, thorny bushes, a fragile but at the same time powerful flower with constantly swaying, transparent leaves. Since then, she has made, as a personal salutation to Vincent van Gogh, layered paper collages in which the fascination for the iris is visualised differently time and time again. The subtle layers of paper, in which a striking amount of blue has been incorporated, give the irises an ethereal appearance.
In contrast to many colleagues in her profession, Hildegard Monssen (Vorst – D, 1948) always works using natural light when she is taking photographs in her studio in Neuss. Because she is completely dependent on the ideal weather conditions, she sometimes has to wait an age for the right moment. Above all, she recently worked on a series of full-colour photographs named Le Paysage Florale. The close-ups of mysterious flower worlds transform in our mind’s eye into subtle magical flower scapes. As viewers, we are literally perched on the skin of partly or completely wilted flowers. Through the extreme close-ups, every hair, bud, line and vein in decay is individually visible.
Margriet Smulders (Bussum, 1955) is known most especially for her floral still lifes that are part of many collections in countless museums, companies and private collections. She combines flowers and fruits with mirrors and water, so that the theatrical character reaches maximum expression. She recently wove more strange elements into her still lifes: sometimes bloody or heavy and then airy and frivolous again.
To celebrate the occasion of the Floriade 2012, Margriet Smulders is creating, with the title In de Roos (In the Rose), a monumental mural on the facade of Museum van Bommel van Dam. A work in which drawing and painting are surprisingly entwined.
The exhibition Lost in Flowers runs from 6 May to 19 August 2012. In de Roos by Margriet Smulders from 6 May to 7 October 2012.