Dutch house, Crayke, recently unveiled its new art house, Kunsthuis. It is a fresh space, separate from their Art Café and Wildlife Garden, drawing inspiration from wild surroundings to form a contemporary art gallery. Kunsthuis offers something new to Yorkshire. Its founders travelled to Sittard in The Netherlands to collect an array of exciting contemporary Dutch paintings, ceramics and bronze pieces to feature within the gallery’s first exhibitions. This article presents insider information regarding plans for the gallery, including a selection of photographs taken during the opening night on Saturday 10th May 2014. Cecile Creemers and Sjaak Kastelijn have lived and worked in Yorkshire for five years. Originally from Sittard, the couple named their son ‘York’ having visited the UK for some beautiful holidays in years past. Sjaak, a professional gardener, and Cecile, a graphic designer and artist, are naturally creative and have an eye for aesthetically intriguing artworks. Some of the pieces selected are quintessentially Dutch, particularly the ceramics by Sjer Jacobs. This artist claims to possess an artistic obsession with people; their mannerisms and expressions, movements and relationships. Kunsthuis displays a rich selection of his figural work over the forthcoming year.
Kunsthuis combines its range of Dutch art with a collection of carefully selected British artists’ work. These pieces were chosen purposefully for their relation to nature and the wilderness. This is something that Cecile and Sjaak wished for before: prior to the creation of this gallery, the couple held small exhibitions of artists’ work within the Art Café. This will continue, while expansion into a new space allows for organised exhibitions and greater curatorial freedom. June Hardy‘s ‘Intricacies of Nature’ is ongoing within the Art Café, running until 29th June 2014, along with work by Bridget Wilkinson and Elise Bikker.
Kunsthuis‘ first series of exhibitions is called ‘Across the North Sea’. Part One consists of Noor Tielens‘ lively and vibrant abstract works, which are vast, running across two large walls, impelling and intriguing. Noor Tielens is a Dutch contemporary painter who works predominantly with acrylic and oil paints, charcoal and spray. She is an Expressionist and enjoys the exploration of mixed feelings, moods, and runaway thoughts, articulating her perceptions of given topics through vibrant, often frenzied, brush marks. Noor allows the materials, colours and shapes to highlight a given atmosphere. She is intrigued by the way in which the individual viewer affects and moves the works through their personal outlook.
Tielens offers this explanation of her ethos and work processes: “Painting is an adventure whose end is not known. A painting is a structure driven mainly by colour and material. Floating on emotions, responding to colours, working in a therapeutic manner sometimes. It’s about the things that affect me and keep me busy, so the works are very varied.”
These works are joined by ceramic pieces by Andrew Martin. His work explores the merging of colour and abstract form, working towards the creation of inventive and enticing design. Martin encourages the natural texture of the glazes to flow across the ceramic pieces, encouraging drips and irregularities to become a major aspect to the beauty of the pieces. Each work is original; Andrew enjoys combining patterns and colour to create strong contrasts and constant aesthetic interest. His work is unpredictable and ingenious; often juxtaposing strong black and white areas with vibrant yellows, greens and purples. It is important that the work is at once innovative and striking at the same time as being functional. Martin creates a vast selection of domestic pieces including tea pots, jugs, vases, platters, bowls, jars, dinnerware, cups and tumblers. He has been featured within several eminent publications, including Ceramics Monthly, which featured his recent aquatic-themed works:
“Beneath surfaces slick and glassy, tide pool worlds teem with mossy bryozoans, undulating branches of rockweed, and ribbons of sea algae that lift and swirl in a slow and stately motion. Bits of bright colour flash in piscine fashion among the more shadowy forms.”
Lei Hannen’s sculptural ceramics also feature within Part One: Hannen has spent a lifetime looking at art with a certain curiosity and wonder. Having worked within the chemical business for some time, at the age of thirty he decided to follow his heart and become an artist. Seeking a medium that suited his ethos and ideas, he eventually found ceramics. He endeavoured to discover all that he could about the medium, visiting celebrated Dutch ceramicists, wishing to be exposed to a wide range of approaches. Ceramics appealed to Lei because of its openness, its “unlimited freedom” in terms of style and form. The natural laws that make ceramics challenging do not affect Hannen’s determination to learn all that he can about the craft: he does not see complications in the making process as a burden, but as a metaphor for the “power of the elements,” which he respects. The artist believes that to create as an artist is a privilege and a reflection of human freedom. Lei’s work primarily explores human and animal forms. He produces works that articulate at once a sense of motion and tension; the forms are sometimes frozen in space, atop a base, allowing for focus on the body of the creature. The surfaces of the works are often dazzling, featuring a plethora of subtle, shimmering colours when viewed in the light.
Monique Ausems‘ small bronzes are displayed within a glass cabinet. Auseums is a bronze sculptor from Maastricht. As a student she explored painting and ceramics, evident in the scope of her bronze works today. She is fascinated by the transformation from ‘nothing’ into ‘something; of the potential warmth of bronze, the process of sculpting first in wax, before giving delicate finishing touches to cast bronze. Ausems enjoys simplifying and abstracting forms, while remaining grounded within figurative work at times. Curved, smooth forms are characteristic elements to her sculpture. Currently she is fascinated by brightly coloured, rough, raw bronze and its relation to refined, polished, perfected segments. Quality is a priority over quantity; hence the works commonly being small and intriguing at all angles. Lately, Monique is particularly working towards themes including birth, hope, emotive power, degeneration, and death, evident in works such as Primeval Mother, Sabrina (below), Nest Warmth, and Primeval Mother’s Womb. Sometimes she considers mythological beings, or natural life forms such as cocoons, fish, birds, and the sea’s tide.
There is also a preview of what is to come within ‘Across the North Sea’ Parts Two and Three. Sjer Jacobs is a Dutch ceramicist, painter and bronze sculptor based in Tegelen. He is a prolific artist and uses a variety of media to express his extreme fascination with people; their mannerisms, gestures, movements and relation to others. His ceramic works are traditional in terms of style; often looming, highly solid forms, articulating personal relationships, closeness and individual expressions. Jacobs’ work will feature within an exhibition focusing on people, which will open in July.
Stef Mitchell is currently Kunsthuis‘ artist in residence. The printmaker has been collecting flora and fauna within the Dutch house grounds in order to produce work that poetically relates to the gallery’s surroundings. An exhibition entitled Back to Nature will include a vast variety of work that is the product of the very landscape surrounding the gallery. Kunsthuis presents a small collection of her work within Across the North Sea Part One, juxtaposed by Ian Mitchell‘s linescapes. Both artists’ works meet well with Dutch house‘s ethos.
The new gallery sits opposite the Café; it is a large rectangular space that plays with the relationship between natural and industrial. The owners are excited to be able to organise special exhibitions in the future, while allowing for artists’ in residence to work within a defined area within the gallery space, sometimes visible to visitors. This will encourage contemplation of the act of making and its relation to the finished product. I have been working at Dutch house over the past couple of months. It has been fascinating to witness the progression from planning stages to the finished product. The works arrived from a gallery in Sittard called Nobert Dabekaussen; British works by artists including Eric Moss are set to travel across to this gallery as an exchange. When Cecile and I unloaded the Dutch art from cardboard boxes it was very exciting to see such unique and fresh artworks. This is a fantastic opportunity for art lovers and collectors to experience contemporary work from the Netherlands.
Further information about Kunsthuis can be found on Dutch house‘s website.
Katherine April Caddy, 17th May 2014.
All photography by Benjamin Selby.