Dutch artist Iris van Dongen, who was born in Tilburg but lives and works in Berlin, has grown into a respected name in the art world in the last years. In 2014 she was commissioned to create an official portrait of the Dutch King and her work has been exhibited worldwide. A remarkable new series of work travelled to Paris two weeks ago, where on the 14th of April a new solo exhibition at her gallery Bugada & Cargnel opened for the public. With the exhibition named ‘The Hunter from Noland’, van Dongen presents a series of new drawings mixing gouache, soft pastel and pressed charcoal, and in which the artist recomposes elements from different styles and cultures, from Art nouveau to Asiatic art. The exhibition displays works that, although entirely autonomous, are part of a whole, a fragmented fresco, a story that unfolds on several levels of interpretation. Representing landscapes, characters and a suspended temporality, these new productions are like contemporary vanitases, in which the protagonists are the for the painter familiar young ghostly women. With their slender arms, and dressed in colorful, printed kimonos, these female figures remind of Indonesian Wayang dolls and the iconic work of Gustave Klimt and emphasis the incredible artistic vision of the highly gifted Dutch artist. We love the new influences in van Dongen’s pieces and can’t wait to visit Paris and see and experience her new captivating works in person.
These ghost-like figures, sharing an ambivalent nature that is closer to the one of the spirits that haunt Asian cultures pervaded by animism than to the one of some monsters, are not frightening. They express a melancholy that runs through all of the artist’s work.
If the references to Asian art are nothing new in Iris van Dongen’s work, they’re more obvious here, and are rooted in personal and collective sources: a profound interest in ghost stories inherited from her childhood, an Indonesian grandfather, the influence of Asian and Indonesian arts on Dutch artistic production—especially through cultural exchanges during the colonial period—, the work of Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, and even Delft Blue pottery, which the artist collects. In her paintings, one also finds an extraordinary decorative abundance, and a central place accorded to the fauna and flora representations, characteristic of Art Nouveau, a movement that was also influenced by Asian art.
In ‘The Hunter from Noland’, the artist reflects upon the human condition, and more particularly on the antagonism between the spirit’s timelessness and the earthly, perishable nature of matter and bodies. This reflection intersects with a broader reflection —one that is essential in the artist’s work— on the fundamental oppositions between representation and abstraction, between the rational and the irrational.
An impressive vitality emanates from all of the drawings that make up ‘The Hunter from Noland’, and from its figures of female nomadic warriors and adventurers. Resulting from the reconstruction of extremely varied worlds and coming from that no land, from that territory constituted by Iris van Dongen’s imagination, they seem caught in the both linear and cyclical time of a perpetual quest, that of the artist.
Iris van Dongen was born inTilburg, Netherlands, but lives and works in Berlin. Her work is always instilled by the melancholic side of romanticism. Despite the beauty of the portrayed a sad or even malicious undertone resonates always throughout. The predominantly female figures in her depictions have a far-away look, because van Dongen sees them as something abstract, despite their modern – even fashionable – appearance as though they were figures from mythology. Inspired by traditional movements like symbolism, there is always a small element, such as the sweatband with the skull, which links her work directly into the contemporary world.
The oppositions that I juxtapose with each other — ‘good and evil’, ‘past and present’, and, literally, the ‘figurative’ and the ‘abstract’, are meant to blur the boundaries of these concepts.
All images courtesy of Bugada & Cargnel and the artist.
Credit top image: ‘Melancolia in an Asian Setting’, 2016, photography by Martin Argyroglo.
The exhibition will run until the 28th of May.
Bugada & Cargnel is located at 7-9 rue de l’Équerre in Paris, opened Tuesday to Saturday, 11:00 until 12:30 and 14:00 until 19:00.
For more information see here