From October 19th until October 23rd, 2010, artist Dhiradj Ramsamoedj (24) had a solo exhibition in De Hal at the Grote Combéweg. In this exhibition the young artist presents to the public, in a surprising way, his perception of mankind. At the same time he shares a number of childhood memories with us and also draws attention to the fact that ‘waste materials’ can be reused in several ways.
Immediately upon entering the premises I got the feeling that I was walking into an exceptional world. A long pathway with empty space on both sides and in the background large strange looking heads sticking out above the ground, trigger my curiosity. The diagonally positioned black sheets of fabric seem to create the illusion of wanting to suck me right into that exceptional world. The darkness adds an extra touch to the whole (the exhibition was only open at night.).
As a taste of all that’s yet to come I am welcomed unto the terrace by two sitting, life-sized arm wrestling human figures. Most striking about these figures is that they are created by composing different pieces of cloth according to motif and range of color. By doing so, the artist creates a beautiful contrast between the softness of the cloth and the strength associated with arm wrestling. With the title ‘So close, yet so far’ the artist refers to the fact that people can be so close to each other, can seem so tender and caring towards each other, but in actuality they are constantly engaging in conflict.
Another sample is the digital presentation of his preliminary studies. The lumpy heads that I previously encountered now appear more often upon the wall. Another step ahead brings me to the Het Kookraam [The Cooking Window], a work of art constructed from numerous scraps of wood, in which human figures can be identified. Regrettably the light was not directed onto the object from the right angle, which prevented the shadow upon the wall from playing an important role.
At the entrance of the large hall I stood in awe: ‘wow!’ No panels and works of art that seem to come straight at me, but a wonderful, all encompassing view of the art in the space.
Here there are some more figures made from cloth, but more robust and standing on their own. The careful application of pieces of cloth reveals the artist’s background. His grandfather was a tailor and his mother is a seamstress. Cloth scraps have fascinated him ever since he was a young child.
The large heads which were on display outside appear again in many of the paintings. According to the artist he got inspired by the liberties taken by the surrealistic Spanish artist Joan Miró, to create strange beings. In contrast to Miró, Ramsamoedj sticks to only one shape: a large head with a strongly pronounced forehead and back of the head, without ears, eyes, noses and mouths. To him this strange being symbolizes: ‘the face behind the mask’. Because of the way in which we are raised, a mask is formed in front of our faces. We typically behave as is expected by our parents and our surroundings. Psychiatrist Carl Jung calls the mask or the apparent personality the ‘persona’. He calls that which is behind the mask, ‘the shadow’, the true person, the source of creativity.
I find the two glass versions and the reflection thereof on a painting right behind it, a two dimensional image with a strong three dimensional effect, spectacular. In this the painting style of the artist is truly well displayed.
What also immediately strikes one upon entering the hall, are the canvases put into window frames, which with their obvious signs of wear, tell their own little piece of history. It is as if I am transported back in time and, through the frames, look straight into houses and the different scenes within.
Together with the team of Readytex Art Gallery, Dhiradj Ramsamoedj has left nothing to chance. Every detail received the right amount of attention: the invitation by itself is a work of art, the exhibition was only open during the evenings which contributed to the right atmosphere, the visitors were treated to cookies in the shape of the strange heads and there were also T-shirts offered for sale with on them the same heads. What I did miss however, was an adequate viewing indicator which would have offered the viewer more than just ‘aliens’, mice and bright colors.
My compliments to Readytex Art Gallery for the beautiful exhibition space which will undoubtedly encourage Surinamese artists to further expand their boundaries. I hope that the government follows this example and that there will soon be a National Gallery, which can offer a comprehensive overview of the art history of Suriname. In any case, the exhibition Ordinary People Reloaded has proven that Ramsamoedj is in the lift. Thus, I eagerly look forward to his next exhibition!
Carmen R. Dragman MA is a teacher at the Institute for the Education of Teachers (IOL) in the department Visual Arts Education.
Translation: Cassandra Gummels Relyveld/Readytex Art Gallery