‘Divali’, a unique exhibition in Pulchri Studio, the Netherlands

The Hague has the largest Hindustani population of any city in the Netherlands and even the European continent. In one of the most famous exhibition spaces in the city, the beautiful 18th and 19th century building of the artist’s association Pulchri Studio, art from Surinamese Hindustani artists and artists from The Hague is shown. Diverse works of art from Glenn Kallasingh, Henk Janmohamed, Surender Kisoentewari, Rik van Hazendonk, Rinus Groenendaal and Riëlle Beekmans, offer the public a unique view of the theme of Divali, the Hindu celebration of lights.

Kisoentewari – ‘Divalivangoli’, primer/linen, 2012 | PHOTO Dan Dickhof, 2012
Kisoentewari – ‘Divalivangoli’, primer/linen, 2012 | PHOTO Dan Dickhof, 2012
Rinus Groenendaal – ‘Moksha’, mixed media/board, 2012  | PHOTO Dan Dickhof, 2012
Rinus Groenendaal – ‘Moksha’, mixed media/board, 2012 | PHOTO Dan Dickhof, 2012

The exhibition is unique, since this is the first time that the Sarnámi Huis (the Hindustani museum), the Haags Historisch Museum, Pulchri Studio and Sociëteit de Waterkant (a cultural association with members involved with Suriname) work together on a public celebration of Divali. The city of The Hague has volunteered itself as a candidate for cultural capital of Europe in 2018 and that is why the city wants to give more and more attention to the important subcultures of the city, such as the Hindustani.

At the opening Pulchri-chairman Siebrand Weitenberg spoke about the fact that for many visiting the chic looking Pulchri-galleries does not come naturally, but that “Pulchri is not a club of egocentrics who are involved with art in an elite fashion, but one that is seeking to connect with the city and its inhabitants.” Councilor Norder also underlined the importance of the Surinamese community for the city and its culture, and the essence of living together and by celebrating Divali together. Both pointed out that this exhibition signals the start of a plan to increasingly highlight the different expressions of culture in the community of The Hague in the coming years.

The intimate garden gallery does the twelve works justice. They are mostly paintings, occasionally in combination with mixed media, and one group of sculptures. Striking pieces were the mixed media paintings by Groenendaal. Like drawings, fragile and built up in thin layers. It seems to be set up very purposefully. The intimate work ‘Moksha’ would have been better capable of triggering the imagination if the artist had not deprived the viewers of the chance to come to their own interpretation. By writing ‘licht, licht, licht’ (light, light, light) on it, the piece became too literal and the poetry was lost.

Interesting is the abstract painting composed of large circular movements by Surender Kisoentewari. In the vicinity of the other paintings it appears somewhat monumental. Just like Groenendaal he has written, although almost invisible in the upper right corner, a text ‘divalivangoli’ (freely translated: multiple lights which together form a whole). It is no more than a small note, a title, randomly applied, but other than in Groenendaals work, it is not disturbing. It does not take anything away from the fantasy; the work remains relevant, even outside of the context of this special Divali-exhibition. The white circles are portrayed as a fast and rhythmic pattern, just like the dancing of the candlelight, as you see it when you squeeze your eyes almost shut.

The exhibition Divali is open to the public (free of charge) up until Sunday the 30th of November in Pulchri Studio, Lange Voorhout 15, The Hague.

More information: http://www.pulchri.nl/tentoonstellingen/den-haag-viert-divali

TEXT Dan Dickhof, November 2012

TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels- Relyveld, 2012

Dan Dickhof writes about old, modern and contemporary art for various media –such as 8WEEKLY, kM  and Atelier, worked in auctions and assists in putting together exhibitions. He studied at the kunstacademie in The Hague and also works as young artist. He is currently still studying art history at Leiden University.


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