“I obtain the most beautiful colors from flower petals, the most beautiful shapes from seeds and seed pods. The seeds of the African tulip*, a large tree with red flowers, that I brought with me from Suriname, are wonderful to work with. Airy, translucent, filling and at the same time creating space and depth.”
In her studio in Tuinplaas on the South African Cape, Jon Daamen is busily experimenting. She makes two-dimensional collages from natural material and thus portrays landscapes with great atmospheres. The type of creations for which she became well known when she lived and worked in Suriname. Because of her move to South Africa, her artistry was put on the back burner for many years, until an unexpected visit to her former home country rekindled the spark. Halfway through 2014 she was briefly in Suriname for the first time in 17 years. She left with a bag filled with seeds and pods. And with a heart filled with inspiration to start making art again.
But picking the thread back up after such a long hiatus is a struggle … She has explored Surinamese nature as few others have during the 25 years that she lived there. She is not as yet familiar with African plants; she has never before worked with them.
“I struggle with Cape landscapes, Surinamese skies and two kinds of light. And because my work is often suggestive, a mixture of accents and emptiness, it has to be just right to be recognizable for others. The images in my mind’s eye cannot be compared to the reality of here and now. Light in Suriname falls totally different from the way it does here, because here the sun sits much lower and throws much longer shadows. In the early mornings it often looks as though everything is bathed in silver and as night falls we have a more orange-tinted light. The long shadows give a lot of depth to the landscape.”
For her African work she uses, just as she did in Suriname, seeds, pods, dried leaves of shrubs, trees and flowers. But also ‘kapok’, tufts of horsehair that she finds in the barbed wire around her farm, feathers and insect wings. And sometimes also fish or turtle scales and the sloughed off skin of snakes, but only those that she finds, she doesn’t kill anything for it.
Because of her residence on three continents, she recognizes forms and landscapes from all over, in all kinds of natural materials, even in stamen and cauliflowers. Only the surroundings are different. In South Africa everything is easy on the eye and arranged in planes and groups. Is that why the experimental collages that Jon Daamen currently makes are much fuller than what she previously did? She thinks this is indeed the case. “The images I make now are abstracter, wilder and fuller. Maybe because I do in fact miss the fullness, the messiness, the colorfulness of Paramaribo.”
On April 18 & 19, 2015, the collages of Jon Daamen were part of an exhibition in the Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, an attractive and much visited initiative from the artist village of the same name, where the painters, photographers, sculptors, ceramists and guest artists open their homes for the public three times a year. Incorporated in the work that Jon Daamen has shown there, are seeds obtained from the pods that she picked up under the Spathodea at the Van ’t Hogerhuysstraat in Paramaribo.
* Spathodea campanulata, better known as African Tulip
TEXT Chandra van Binnendijk
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 catalogue 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).