Saul Leiter: paintings

“I may be old-fashioned, but I believe there is such a thing as a search for beauty – a delight in the nice things in the world. And I don’t think one should have to apologise for it.”  

Saul Leiter in  ‘In No Great Hurry‘, a 2014 documentary about Saul Leiter


Saul Leiter, Untitled, ca 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

Saul Leiter (1923-2013) was born in Pittsburgh. His Jewish father was a well known Talmud scholar and Saul studied to become a Rabbi. His mother gave him his first camera at age 12. At age 23, he left theology school and moved to New York City to pursue painting. He had developed an early interest in painting and was fortunate to meet the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography. His interest in photography grew and he started to take pictures of his neighbourhood. The rest is history. Saul Leiter became a pioneering photographer with a very distinct eye.

Despite his photography career, he never gave up painting. In the retrospective exhibition which originated at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg and travelled to FOMU in Antwerp, his pioneering pictures were shown next to his colourful paintings; abstract paintings on Japanese silk paper, painted-over nude pictures and small paintings in sketchbooks. A beautiful  artistry of Leiter to be discovered!


Saul Leiter, Untitled, ca 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper


Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache and watercolour over gelatine silver print


Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache and watercolour over gelatine silver print


Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper


Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper


Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper


Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper


Saul Leiter, sketchbooks

All pictures were taken by me in the Retrospective in FOMU, Antwerp.




Full Moon


Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar

A new museum is born. The youngest museum in the Netherlands opened in September 2016 near The Hague. Museum Voorlinden houses the diverse art collection of Joop van Caldenborgh. The idea to develop a new museum to house this exceptional collection rooted a few years ago and finally saw the light in 2016. A new building was designed, the gardens were designed by Piet Oudolf and the stately building in the garden was turned into a restaurant. It must be said: Museum Voorlinden is a gem to be discovered!

What striked me most during my first visit is how the surrounding landscape is made part of the museum experience and also the pleasant way the visitor is invited to explore and learn about the art works.


Ellsworth Kelly – Blue Ripe (1959)

The opening exhibition in Museum Voorlinden was and ode to the late artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015). It was the first solo exhibition of the American artist in The Netherlands since 1979 but it closed on January 8. Martin Creed is coming up next.

The exhibition ‘Full Moon‘ offers an introduction to the collection by presenting 40 art works to be discovered and to enjoy the pleasure of looking. Museum Voorlinden also has a number of works in its own permanent exhibition where they are shown in the best possible way. Museum Voorlinden is highly recommended by Fieldnotes. Some of my favourites are below.


Ron Mueck – Open Ended (2007-2008). Mueck makes extremely realistic human figures. Only the scale of the sculptures reveals that they are not ‘real’. As a son of a puppet maker he gets intrigued at an early age about puppets and the ways to make them move. At some point he works as assistent puppet maker with Jim Henson (‘Sesame Street’ and ‘The Muppet Show’). Mueck manages to never impose his own vision or story so that you can freely make your own story while looking at the works.


Kaari Upson – Janice, Tracy, Sarah, Kristin, Joan, … (2012). In 2003 Kaari Upson entered a deserted house close to Los Angeles where she lives. Apparently a pervert has lived here who is now serving his time in prison. Upson took some of the found objects, named the mysterious figure ‘Larry’ and created several works within this new reality. The installation on display here is the climax of Upson’s Larry project. All women that played a role in the narrative of the Larry project come together here and are named in the endlessly long title. the crutches are made from silicon and in their slackness have lost all functionality of support. The skin colours, the use of hair, dust and dirt make the work attractive and repulsive at the same time.


Rémy Zaugg – Imagine, you are standing here in front of me (1990-1993). Painted in white on a white canvas the text in Rémy Zaugg’s work is barely readable at first. Zaugg is well known for his word-paintings. This work is in a way a self portrait. By using the tool of language Zaugg challenges the viewer to visualise his portrait. At the same time it is an illustration of the relativity of all perception: everyone creates his own image.


Pascale Marthine Tayou – Cloth Painting F (2013). Various pieces of fabric, stitched together, stretched over a frame and eye-catchingly in the center is the skin of a swine. The fabrics, taken from second hand garments, and the skin almost come alive because of the filling with hay. These are recurrent materials and objects in the oeuvre of Pascale Martine Tayou, a Cameroon artist living in Belgium. Tayou creates universal images dealing with topics like migration, the circulation of people and commodities, equality versus inequality. He presents it in a colourful way by means of objects from his motherland.


Astrid Mingels – Introverted (2014). The skin of a zebra, folded neatly, displayed on a white pedestal. Astrid Mingels removes the skin from its colonial context. By folding up the skin, she refers to the downfall of the modernistic way of thinking. The trophy is reduced to a package that can easily be stored in a cupboard.


Ornaghi & Prestinari – Abito, 2014. In Italian the word ‘abito’ is used for the blue working garment. We see two versions: the one in the back is a common overall with paint splashes. The garment in the front is an exact copy but now knitted and every spot of paint is embroidered by hand on the wool. It brings hommage to the painter and the craftsmanship inherent in the act of painting.


Giorgio Morandi – Natura Morta con quattro oggetti e tre bottiglie (1956) & Natura Morta con cinque oggetti (1956). “Nothing is a s abstract as reality”, is an often heard quote of Morandi. In his studio he collected all sorts of pots, jars, vases and jugs. He depicted them in hundreds of combinations. Morandi is not interested in the representation of the objects as such, but in creating works where the main motif is the interrelationship of their form, the space in between and the interplay of light and shadow. It results in an endless variety as these two etchings on display illustrate.




Richard Serra – Open Ended (2007-2008). This monumental work in steel weighs 216 ton, is 4 m high, 18 m long and can be experienced by walking through. After a few steps you enter an other world completely surrounded by the art work. A museum room was specifically designed in close collaboration with the artist to house ‘Open Ended’. The result is an exciting contrast between straight and bowed, light and shadow, inside and outside.


Leandro Erlich – Swimming Pool (2016). Erlich plays with optical illusions. He creates disorientating installations, mostly architectural spaces where something is not quite right. When you visit make sure to go ‘in’ the Swimming Pool. You won’t get wet.

Seeing art is great fun at Museum Voorlinden. And that alone deserves a visit.

Pictures were taken by me, caption content is adapted from visitors guide “Full Moon” exhibition and the book “Highlights Collectie Voorlinden”.



Van Gogh’s first steps as an artist


Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) – Vincent Van Gogh, circa 30 Mar 1888, oil on canvas. This is one of the first paintings he made after moving to Paris

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) might be one of the most famous artists in the world. He was born in 1853 in the Netherlands. After having done different jobs he decided to become an artist at the age of 27. Van Gogh took painting lessons in The Hague from a cousin by marriage, artist Anton Mauve.

Van Gogh’s early drawings and paintings can now be seen at the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. The expo ‘The Early Van Gogh – work against indifference‘ showcases 120 works from the museums’ collection from the period 1880-1885. The works clearly show how Van Gogh’s artistry develops in his early Dutch period. It reveals his fanatical practising to improve his drawing technique and to create art that in his own words ‘wells up from a deeper source in our soul’.


Man seen from the back and studies of hands – Vincent Van Gogh, May-Jun 1885, chalk on paper


Reaper – Vincent Van Gogh, Jul-Aug 1885, chalk on paper


Man with broom – Vincent Van Gogh, Oct 1881, chalk, charcoal, watercolour on paper





Boy with a sickle – Vincent Van Gogh, Oct-Nov 1881, chalk, charcoal, watercolour on paper


Carpenter’s yard and laundry – Vincent Van Gogh, May 1882, pencil, chalk, ink, watercolour on paper


Weaver in front of his loom – Vincent Van Gogh, May-Jun 1884, pencil, ink, watercolour on paper


Peasant woman cleaning a pot – Vincent Van Gogh, Jul-Aug 1885, chalk on paper

After his father died in 1885 he started working on the famous painting ‘The Potato Eaters‘. Later that year he decided to enrol at the academy of art in Antwerp and from there he moved to Paris.
The works he produced in France until his death can be seen in museums all over the world but for his very first drawings and paintings you have to go to the beautiful Kröller-Müller Museum.
And while you’re there grab one of the free white bikes and enjoy the surrounding Veluwe National Park with all your senses.



Exhibition view ‘The Early Van Gogh’ – Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands

Tip: The website of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is a great resource if you want to read more on Van Gogh.

Paulina Olowska – portraits


Paulina Olowska – Girl in Portobello Road market offers for sale dresses she has made, 2012. Oil on canvas.

Paulina Olowska (1976) grew up in Poland in the days of communism. Today, she still  lives and works in Poland, dividing her time between Krakow and her studio in the lush Polish countryside.
As an artist she explores topics as the woman as an archetype, muse, mother, housewife, model or artist and she sets them against the backdrop of the historical, social and cultural shifts between East and West since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.


Paulina Olowska – Granny, 2012. Oil on canvas.

Olowska has always been profoundly interested in the cultural and social significance of clothing and fashion. Her early paintings and collages were based on commercial images but recently her paintings became more lively.  She plays so freely with the paint, watered down to nearly watercolour, sprayed or liberally pasted on the canvas, it all happens easily in one painting. Seeing her paintings in person is a true delight.


Paulina Olowska – Nicole de la Marge and the Rolling Stones, Queen, 1964, 2012. Oil on canvas.


Paulina Olowska – Untitled (for Ulrike Ottinger), 2012. Oil on canvas.

Having studied art in 5 countries; Japan, America, the Netherlands, Portugal and Poland, Olowska continues to exhibit her work internationally. Last year she was shown in Paris, Aachen and Tate Modern-London. Soon she will have a show in Metro Pictures Gallery in NY (Nov 4-Dec 22, 2016). The portraits above are currently on view in “These Strangers… Painting and People” at SMAK, Belgium till 8 Jan 2017.

Read more about Paulina Olowska in this interesting recent article in NYTimes Style Magazine and here.

Next of Kin


Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has an online collection of fine art. But what is rather genius about them is that they support creatives of all fields by allowing and encouraging the public to download the high-res images of their various collections and create new art with it.
And that’s what Biljana Kroll does. She thankfully uses the richness of these digital scans as a starting point for her designs.

I was immediately charmed by her latest poster series “Next of kin“. In that series she  creates floral collages combining florals from 16th century floral still-life paintings with the abstract finger paintings of her toddler son. How cool is that? I’m always in for mother-child art co-operations!


Biljana Kroll’s fingerpainting sessions with her toddler son


Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”


Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”


Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”


Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”



Biljana Kroll – from the poster series “Next of Kin”

See more of Biljana Kroll’s portfolio on her website.


Michael Buthe


Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1987-88. 8 collages on paper (Detail)

Michael Buthe was an unknown artist to me when I entered his retrospective exhibition earlier this year. What a playful bohemian art feast was I to discover!

Buthe is a German artist who died in 1994 at the age of 50. He studied art in Kassel and later in Dusseldorf as a student of Joseph Beuys. Although he exhibited widely in Germany throughout his life and participated in 4 ‘Documenta’ exhibitions, his work seemed to have moved to the back plane but has been re-examined for Buthe’s retrospective (still on view in Munich till 20 November 2016).


Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1969.

His works are strikingly diverse in medium, he produced textile works, drawings, collages, paintings and sculptures. His fascination for the cosmos, mythology, a shamanistic lifestyle and for a physical art practice that permeates life is what oozes out of his entire body of work. He traveled extensively and spent longer periods of time in Marocco. North African influences are visible in several works.


Michael Buthe – Le roi est mort, 1974-77. Chair, wax, feathers, wood, buffalo horns, string and glass.


Michael Buthe – Boulli Afrikaa, from 1972. Various materials (detail).

Buthe’s artistic process is very fluid; he constantly adds and subtracts materials. Some works developed over extended periods of time. Boulli Afrikaa is the title that Buthe gave to a sculpture which began conceptually in 1972 with the shoes and red necklace of a Senegalese musician and from then on was successively filled with other keepsakes and objets trouvés.


Michael Buthe – Diary, 1977.


Michael Buthe – Das Tote Meer, 1989. Mixed media on canvas, gold leaf.


Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, early 1970s. Collage, photo, gold wrapping ribbon, lid of a can in wax with rubber seal, part of a paint brush, glue, gold bronze on paper on canvas.


Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1992. Mixed media, assemblage with wood on canvas.

Michael Buthe’s retrospective is still on view in Munich till 20 November 2016.
All pictures in this post were taken by me in the retrospective at SMAK, Ghent.

Maki Na Kamura


Maki Na Kamura – fGf XXVII, 2011

Watching a painting by Maki Na Kumara is an experience. Is it an abstract image or is it a landscape? Does she uses paint or watercolour? The colours are at times very mute and sometimes quite electric.
When I researched her after seeing some of her work at the Biennale of painting, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Belgium, I was even more intrigued.


Maki Na Kamura – fGf X, 2010

Maki Na Kamura comes from Japan, having moved to live in Germany in the mid-1990s. She studied painting under Jörg Immendorff, initially in Frankfurt and later in Dusseldorf. Since 2005 she has been living and working in Berlin.
In 2005, she exhibited a number of works herself. Rather than sending invitation cards or posting details online, the show was announced only via a large advertisement in a Berlin daily newspaper: “IHR SCHÖNSTES BILD HAT SIE VERKAUFT UND IN EINE ANZEIGE VERWANDELT. NUN SPIELT SIE LE COUCOU AUF DEM PIANO…” (She’s sold her best picture and turned it into an advertisement. Now she’ll play “Le Coucou” on the piano …). A grand piano was acquired, on which Na Kamura practised every day in front of her pictures and, as announced, pondered questions like: Is this an exhibition? Or: Am I now part of the art world? This one-week event, referred to in one piece on her show as “Na Kamura’s first discrete entrance into the arena of the Berlin art world, took place in an empty shop at Fasanenstrasse 69, Berlin.


Maki Na Kamura – fGf XVIII, 2011

Maki Na Kamura’s paintings are, at their core, landscapes. Instead of idealized scenes pulled from nature, she builds her landscapes from abstract washes of color, modernist skyscrapers, and most notably, other paintings. She borrows motifs from the history of pre-Impressionist landscape painting – Hokusai, as well as links to the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, Jean-François Millet and Whether Giogione’s “Sleeping Venus” (1510),  or mountains and trees of Hans Bol.

Subtle as they are, you easily miss the references, however. And indeed, this is part of the artist’s game. “I build these histories into my landscapes,” she says. “Surely, [the references] should have a presence, but they shouldn’t be so clear that you get them immediately. The historical references aren’t a template. They’re nothing more than a vocabulary with which I can build new sentences. It’s like a game, an earnest game though. It’s a challenged to the masters.


Maki Na Kamura – fGf XXVIII, 2011

In Kamura’s series fGf (the ‘fat gold frame’ in question is imagined, not shown, 2010–11) and GiL (‘geometry in landscapes’, 2011–13) – she explores cultural exchange as export/import. Some of her latest landscape paintings that bear titles like “. SS 1”, “. SS 2” etc., an abbreviation for shan shui (mountain water), the traditional Chinese art of landscape painting. Rocks float. Figures float. Or is this just what a viewer with a firm belief in a single horizon wishes to see?


Maki Na Kamura – .SS4, 2015

In 2012 Maki Na Kamura received the Prix Marcel Broodthaers and in 2013 she was awarded the Falkerot Prize.

Check out her website for more.