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P1050661The legendary dean of Amsterdam’s second hand booksellers Wout Vuijk, at 94 years old and always sharp as a tack, uses his now empty space on a beautiful busy canal corner for Contemporary Art Exhibitions and until May 28th at Singel 383, the Dutch Watercolor Club holds another one of their member exhibitions.

Here you can find the art and artists who contributed to the art scene in years past, the known and unknown artists and as always this question pops up; how do you define the artist? The answer is found partly in the title of this exhibition which is Surprise/Awe/In Tandem! Yes what colors and what a surprise this gem exhibition is.

In order to do justice to the art and in admiration for the two artists Henri de Haas and Theo Linnemann we will write two posts. This post will be about the works by Henri de Haas (1937-) shown below, and the second post will be about the works by Theo Linnemann.

P1050675As soon as you step foot into this relatively small space, color jumps out at you. It is a vision of desert space made by the artist after his trip to Egypt. Remember we are talking about a large scale watercolor here and see how the color rises to the top like sand lifted in a whirlwind.

P1050674The color is somewhere between Bengal curry and curcuma, and I felt the heat radiating from the painting. If it were not for the color, the work with its exquisite details reminded me somehow of the late Cy Twombly, expansive but delicate at the same time.

P1050676Even the painting’s reflection on this glass window attracts the eyeballs.

So now you think you might have a grip on this visual artist and then comes this Breughelian scene in such lush colors that you wish you did not see the horrors depicted; a Saint Nicholas parade gone awry years ago, the Saint clinging to his staff. Note the details of the white outlines of the figures and yes Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) whipping people. The painting was made after the true story and the scene was witnessed by the artist.

P1050664By now you start to understand that Henri De Haas and his art are not so easy to define; graphic designer, book jacket designer for De Arbeiders Pers in the 1960’s, maker of musical instruments, sculptor, member of a traveling theater group and so on, not to mention his self styled or self published monographs were in advance by a decade or more.

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P1050693P1050692Several weeks ago scouring a secondhand bookshop, I bought the book on the left below, not to read but for the cover. Coincidence or not, unfortunately no credit was given to the cover designer, but now I met him and saw some more covers in this distinctive style.

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P1050688Perhaps we will do a book cover post with his work in the near future. Back to the exhibition below.

P1050665In his work we notice irony, social concerns, but perhaps more in amazement, an eye for the small large topics in life. One of these is a recurrent Jewish oriented theme; the Holocaust, Hans who as a small child survived the horrors of war in Amsterdam brings images to us in a soft way, viewed from a distance perhaps but poignantly without faces.P1050668Yes, Henri de Haas is a born storyteller in his art like the image on one of his own books, Above the City shown below depicting a human body in free fall as if untouched by real life and real life events. Let us have a look at some of the war images told by the artist depicted in the book. The most haunting one below is done in 1994 and in one color only titled Mass Grave, you start to wonder if it is about World War II or about Bosnia. This watercolor is large and measures 120 x 150 cm., a monumental work now hanging in a museum.

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Destroyed woods, refers to World War One which his grandfather survived in France

IMG_0008Is the man falling to earth the same as the man on the book cover? Is it a reflection on humanity and its failures?

IMG_0009So how does one define an artist? By his memories and expressions on canvas or paper or by the way he helps you look? Picasso and Death below refers to Picasso dying from a heart attack which colors you blue.

IMG_0012Now the pictures start to remind me of the 90’s Italian TransAvanguardia but no this cannot be.

IMG_0010 IMG_0011Look at the evident monumental strength in the images, the saturated colors.IMG_0003 IMG

IMG_0002IMG_0001Again this man, this time a welded six ft high sculpture. Who is this man? Is it the artist himself? Placed in the proper context are we looking at Icarus without wings?IMG_0004Perhaps we should let this art sink in, slowly but surely, define less, understand less but with more intuition we learn to discover perhaps late what and who we are ourselves.

Next part two: The art of Theo Linnemann

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