On the 22nd of December, 2012, the fabulous book about artist Felix de Rooy, ego documenta, was presented in his presence in Garden of Eden, Paramaribo, Suriname. It is now for sale at Paramaribo’s renowned bookstores. Garden of Eden will continue to show art of De Rooy. The book has already been presented in the Netherlands and also in Curacao. The Curacao presentation was documented in a video by Kirk Claes.
Recently there was also a beautiful exhibition in Galerie 23 in Amsterdam: Felix de Rooy – Schilderijen [Paintings]. Rob Perrée wrote about this exhibition, see below. In upcoming blog posts SAX will also feature a review of this exhibition and two book reviews. On the Sranan Art Flickr account please look forward to a slide show.
Felix de Rooy (1952, Curacao) is difficult to pin point. Not just in a practical sense, because you never know in which part of the world he is– he actually lives in No Man’s Land–, but also artistically. He works in a variety of disciplines; disciplines that each have their own target audience, which require their own infrastructure and have their own codes and laws. He is artist, filmmaker, theatre-maker, theatre director, curator of exhibitions, collector, writer and poet. To him this is normal, because to him boundaries are meant to be lifted or changed. Regrettably though, the general public has a bit more difficulty with such a multifunctional personality. Preconditioned as it is, especially the ‘strict’ Dutch public, it is inclined to opt out at so much diversity.
The exhibition Felix de Rooy – Schilderijen [Paintings] recently in Galerie 23 in Amsterdam, in a certain sense gives in to this tendency by focusing primarily on the visual artist De Rooy. In another sense it convincingly makes clear, that opting out is basically the same thing as treating your love for art in an inferior way.
Within the visual arts he practices various genres and works in different styles. He makes drawings, watercolors, lithographs, paintings, tapestries and assemblages. The subject determines whether he chooses a romantic, a symbolic, a surrealistic or a more realistic style.
His story seems rife with contrasts. His Caribbean origin – he describes himself as “heir of the colonial orgasm”, an “illegitimate bastard”, “a mongrel” – seems to hold the Dutch and the Western culture at a distance. Still he draws effortlessly from European imagery – from Aubrey Beardsley to Gustav Klimt to the early Piet Mondriaan to the Chris Ofili of later years– and combines this with the imagery of his ancestors. Greek myths such as ‘Icarus’ fuse effortlessly with catholic icons or symbols such as ‘Mother with Child’. The ‘Mad Messiah’ gets as much honor as ‘Inner Messiah’. ‘Wisdom’ and the ‘Wisdom of Madness’ don’t bite each other. Jesus or Buddha, there is no distinction between the two. His assemblages are built from historical and contemporary objects and materials. The emphasis on the physicality of (homosexual) man, goes along with a tribute to, whether or not fed by traditions, spiritual life (for example the Surinamese winti religion or the Cuban Santeria). Love and death are not at odds with each other, but go through life more like partners. Pre-colonial and post-colonial times mingle with colonial times in which slavery and oppression dominate. The muse is equally important to De Rooy as the ego and the vanity. The tendency for destruction, the malice and the irony are in the end always incorporated in a romantic, dreamlike world. The rebel with the sharp tongue is at ease with the dreamer. Humor and seriousness do not struggle with each other, but alternate without any problems.
Ultimately Felix de Rooy is a man with a mission. In the new book about his work – ego documenta – Jennifer Smit talks about this extensively. De Rooy consciously brings contrasts together because he is convinced that by doing so it becomes possible to take away the contrasts. He firmly believes that different cultures can also be brought together. He does not ignore the differences, he points them out and names them, but he has a keen eye for the similarities. According to De Rooy everybody is multicultural.
Such a philosophy implicitly explains why he has to occupy himself with various disciplines and why, within those disciplines, he uses different styles. It also explains why he can’t be a citizen of one country, but is a citizen of the world. That he thus makes it hard to understand and admire his multifaceted work, is an inconvenient side effect.
TEXT Rob Perrée (New York, October 2012)
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
The exhibition Felix de Rooy – Schilderijen was held from November 4-22, 2012, in Galerie 23, gallery for contemporary African Art, SBK Amsterdam, KNSM-laan 307-309, 1019 LE Amsterdam, the Netherlands, phone +31 (0)20-6201321. Contacts: Fons Geerlings & Priscilla Tosari.
Rob Perrée works as freelance writer, art critic and curator, specialized in contemporary (Afro-) American art, African art and art using new media. His work has appeared in countless catalogues, books, magazines and newspapers. He is editor of the Dutch art magazine Kunstbeeld.