For the last few years visual artist René Tosari (Meerzorg, 1948) has lived and worked in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam-Zuidoost. However, he never lost contact with Suriname, and every other year he would spend several months here. To exhibit and to work. And since May 2013, he is back for good. Back in Meerzorg, where he was born.
2014 will be an exciting year for Tosari. In the first half of the year he will hold a new exhibition. Furthermore, going on behind the scenes, are the work and preparations for a book about this passionate artist. A monograph in which every aspect of his artistry will be included. The writers team working on this book: Chandra van Binnendijk, Rob Perrée, Priscilla Tosari and Marieke Visser.
The move back to Suriname, for good, has kept him quite busy: he is only now returning to his painting. ‘I was itching to get started again! If you haven’t worked for a month, you need three months to make up for it.’ The first new canvases are already laid out, he is working on a series of small paintings with childhood memories. A larger painting that he is working on also catches the attention.
The first steps on his path towards becoming an artist were made when in 1967, he starts taking lessons at the Nationaal Instituut voor Kunst & Kultuur [National Institute for Art and Culture] (NIKK). In 1970 Tosari continues his studies in the Netherlands, at the Academie Beeldende Kunsten [Visual Arts Academy] in Rotterdam. In the first decade of his artistry René Tosari‘s work is for the most part very engaged, consisting of a lot of graphic prints. Etchings, linocuts, screen prints. Themes that come up in the 70’s and 80’s are among others: the war in Vietnam, the rights of the working class, Anton de Kom, the importance of agriculture, production.
Throughout the years Tosari’s work has become more personal, although his great social involvement remains. ‘That I now focus more on myself, has given me more freedom. But even though I feel as if I work freely, you are naturally constantly confronted with current issues. You either have that type of engagement or you don’t.’ In a fairly recent painting we see someone who is looking through binoculars, and the lenses reflect that which is observed. In it are boat refugees, caught on canvas, months before the shipwrecks took place at Lampedusa.
Occasionally he is called a nomad. As long as he can remember, he is on his way: on the move. He is at home in both worlds; in the Netherlands as well as in Suriname he seems to effortlessly find his way. Without hesitation he picks up the thread on both sides of the ocean. ‘When I was in the Netherlands I stayed in constant contact with Suriname. For me it was essential not to become estranged from my own roots.’ He does notice a difference in the work that he makes in the two worlds. ‘In Suriname you are immediately busy with actualities, you are confronted by them. That is different in the Netherlands, because there you symbolize more. In the work that has taken shape there, you see more static figures, while the paintings made here are more alive, there is more action. Your perception, your involvement, is different in both countries.’
For Tosari it is important that his art has depth to it. ‘I am happy if the viewer can taste what I want to convey.’
In Suriname René Tosari is represented by Readytex Art Gallery (Facebook), Maagdenstraat 44-48, Paramaribo. The last large solo exhibition in Suriname was Dichtbij de oorsprong [close to the origins] in cooperation with Readytex Art Gallery, in De Hal, in 2010. His webpage: http://readytexartgallery.com/renetosari/.
TEXT Marieke Visser
Marieke Visser (Bennekom, the Netherlands, 1962) studied journalism and language and literature in the Netherlands. As publicist she writes a lot about art, culture, history and tourism from her own news agency Swamp Fish Press. Three large art projects to which she has recently contributed are: Wakaman Drawing lines, connecting dots, Paramaribo SPAN and Kibii Wi Koni Marcel Pinas The Event. She is currently editor in chief of Sranan Art Xposed.
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
This article was previously published, in Dutch, in the quarterly EFM Magazine, nr. 7, January 2014. Subscripe to the free EFM newsmailing here. Sranan Art Xposed is in collaborates with EFM Magazine on the art & culture content.