Back to Basics: the ‘Oneliners’ of Els Tjong Joe Wai

Invitation
Invitation

What: Oneliners, an exhibition by Els Tjong Joe Wai

When: March 6, 7 & 8, 2015, 19:00-22:00 hrs. Opening March 6, 19:00 with performance by Tolin Alexander

Where: Sukru Oso, Cornelis Jongbawstraat 16a, Paramaribo, Suriname

 Els Tjong Joe Wai in front of a work that was on display in a previous exhibition,  Zonder titel  [Untitled] / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014

Els Tjong Joe Wai in front of a work that was on display in a previous exhibition, Zonder titel [Untitled] / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Back to basics. For artist Els Tjong Joe Wai this is her way of maneuvering through life’s rapids. She has done turnarounds a few times before. For example: suddenly breaking up in Greece where she had been living contently for many years, running a gallery, doing great artistically speaking, to return to Suriname because this is where love was calling. “Whenever I change direction, it is very important to me to go all the way back to basics. Back to pencil or ink, and paper. And then it becomes clear that what you had thought of as a transitionary phase, actually produces very nice work.”

After an intense change of direction – the sudden passing of her loved one – she once again reverted back to the basics. After the initial mourning, the feeling of wanting to do ‘something’ again, hesitantly crept upwards. But what? And where to begin? “I also make objects, so I didn’t necessarily have to start painting or drawing. I could also have started sticking or pounding or gluing things. But I thought: keep it simple. Just begin with a pencil. Just start with a line. That was very liberating. And thus entirely new work came into existence.”

From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
From the one-liners series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014

She calls this new work her ‘one-liners’. Although this word is something out of linguistics, she does feel that it fits well here: it is after all a clear and straightforward image. Her one-liners are done on beautiful drawing paper and she also uses paper made from banana leaves. She gets the latter from the Matoekoe foundation in Lelydorp. The drawings are made with ink and a drawing pen. Although she certainly likes different colors as well, Tjong Joe Wai currently prefers working with black because she feels that the sobriety of it is most compelling to the work she makes now.

There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper', by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’, by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper', by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’, by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper', by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’, by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper', by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’, by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper', by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
There are also larger ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’, by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
A small ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant 'paper' by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2015
A small ‘one-liners’ on paper made from the fibers of the banana plant. From the one-liners series on banana plant ‘paper’ by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2015

The one-liners are small, in postcard dimensions, but there are also larger ones, measuring up to A-3 in size. She started large and felt comfortable doing so. But afterwards she discovered that working small was actually very exciting and that she could be much more stylized in those. With the smaller one-liners especially, she uses a magnifying glass to avoid the risk of lines touching one another where they are not intended to.

Els Tjong Joe Wai loves working on paper. The one-liners may have been born out of a difficult period, but they give her much pleasure.

At her next exhibition – which is planned for March 7 &8 2015  –  she will show her one-liners and also several watercolors. It will be her second exhibition in  Suriname. The first one, named Zonder titel (without title), took place in December of 2011 and it was the exhibition at which she introduced herself as an artist in her own country.

 Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
 Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
 Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
 Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
 Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Before her ‘one-liners’ Els made several watercolors of figures that have maneuvered themselves in impossible positions. She calls those ‘spagaten’ (splits). From the splits series by Els Tjong Joe Wai / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014

Her book, Zonder title [Untitled], is still available at Book store Vaco (also on Facebook) and at Readytex Art Gallery (also on Facebook).

'Zonder Titel / Untitled', cover
‘Zonder Titel / Untitled’, cover

Els Tjong Joe Wai (Paramaribo, 1952) went to the Ruudt Wackers art academy (also on Facebook) in Amsterdam, 1998-2001. From 2001 to 2009 she lived in Aeropolis, Greece. In 2009 she moved back to Suriname as visual artist and opened Art Gallery Sukru Oso in 2011.

Els Tjong Joe Wai in front of a work that was on display in a previous exhibition,  Zonder titel  [Untitled] / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
Els Tjong Joe Wai in front of a work that was on display in a previous exhibition, Zonder titel [Untitled] / PHOTO Marieke Visser, 2014
TEXT Chandra van Binnendijk, 2014

Chandra van Binnendijk (Paramaribo, 1953) is editor and publicist. From 1977 until 1988 she was part of the news editors of various newspapers and radio stations, and was a correspondent for various Caribbean media. After ten years she said goodbye to active journalism and is since focusing mostly on culture, art and history. She has co-written several art publications amongst which  Twintig jaar beeldende kunst in Suriname 1975 – 1995 (Amsterdam, KIT Publishers, 1995) and she was author and compiler of the art catalog Zichtbaar (Paramaribo, 2005) about the art collection of De Surinaamsche Bank. Recent publications in which she was involved as co-author and co-compiler are Bouwstenen voor een betere wereld. 250 jaar vrijmetselarij in Suriname (Paramaribo, 2011) and TOR. A People’s Business (Paramaribo, 2012).

TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld, 2014

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