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"journey" Tag


An unexpected journey


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where is Harderwijk? What is Harderwijk? I left the train station in Arnhem, not so ready for a two and a half hour travel to the museum of Harderwijk. There was an exhibition of Vilmos Huszar I wanted to visit, but I just couldn’t think of where Harderwijk is on the map. Is it a city or a village? And why would Vilmos Huszar want to live and work there?

Vilmos Huszar was born in Budapest in 1884. In 1904 he started studying arts in München where he met Anna Egter van Wissekerke. In 1905 they moved to the Hague, the city that would become the center of De Stijl. In the next few years he was travelling a lot and in 1908 he decided to build up a life in the Netherlands and he never went back to his home country. Anna’s parents would not accept a marriage which led to his marriage in 1909 with her best friend Jeanne van Teijlingen with which he also got a child.

After only half an hour in the train we stopped; For your own safety please leave the train at the next station, our apologies. I am very used to these situations with our Dutch train companies so I stayed calm. After waiting half an hour in the dutch cold and rainy weather the next train arrived. Off course this train had some delay which made me miss my next train.

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar was experimenting with many different paint styles from 1906 to 1917. A few examples of these styles are divisionism, fauvism, symbolism, futurism, expressionism and synthetism. He referred to this period as the modern period. In 1912 he had his first painting exhibition in the Netherlands. After three years he started meeting artists that would influence the turning point in his art. These artists were Bart van der Leck, Theo van Doesburg, Jan Wils and Chris Beekman. In 1917 the first edition of the magazine of De Stijl was created of which Vilmos Huszar designed the famous logo.

de Stijl magazine

de Stijl magazine

New building materials like reinforced concrete and steel, and the principles of prefabricated construction helped change architecture in the late nineteenth century. Design tended to lag behind technology, however. The architects of De Stijl also designed in the traditional way at first. It was not until later that they began experimenting with new materials, using a new architectural form language, as evidenced by their square, geometric structural volumes, often with rendered walls and flat roofs. Huszar and Rietveld’s space-colour-composition can be regarded as one of the most successful of De Stijl’s interior designs. The radical example of total design can be read both as a plea for the integration of painting, furniture design and architecture and as a manifesto concerning the intimate relationship between colour and space.

Space is experience, spiritual experience. De Stijl sought to deliver a spiritual experience, albeit more universal. The designers of this generation tried to achieve this with huge, monumental spaces that nevertheless had clear architectural boundaries. To them, colour was an effective means of achieving a new spiritual living environment. The idea was to allow the new abstract style of painting to merge completely with architecture.

Eventually I arrived at Harderwijk, still not sure where I was. I went to the bus station and waited a while. After ten minutes I realized none of my busses had arrived yet. The bus station looked abandoned besides the few people in red and black working clothes. I realized they work at Walibi World, a luna park in Holland. A bus showed up, not the bus I had to take. It was going to Walibi World, just like the next three busses. I still didn’t know where Harderwijk was but I knew it was close to Walibi World.

abandoned bus station

Abandoned bus station

Developments in the industrial production of paint made the vibrant colours used by artists available for architectural interiors, too. The artists of De Stijl made colour ‘separate from the structure’ to ensure that the building was liberated from its conventional enclosed character.

Most art pieces Huszar made in the period he was working at De Stijl have been destroyed after his request. The few art pieces that remain untouched are now situated in big museums around the world.

Finally a lot of busses arrived, most of them going towards France and passing the city center of Harderwijk. Wait what, France is not close to Walibi World right? Or is it? Now I was completely disoriented. I thought my topographical skills were pretty good but after that day I gave up on them. I got in a bus, the woman behind the wheel looked at me, didn’t say a thing. She appeared to me as someone who is tired of living, she was driving like that as well.

In 1920 Vilmos Huszar left De Stijl, it is not totally clear why but some people state it was because of a fight with van Doesburg about the colour scheme Huszar designed. He had enough of the traditional way of painting, he stated it was just a easel painting to fill up museums. We think Huszar’s diversity in his artworks was also a big influence on his leaving of De Stijl. We take this letter he sent to his formal art teacher Bremmer as an example;

“I believe that I am too much of an artist to assimilate what I learned from you in my art works. I write you this so you don’t make any useless efforts. I cannot leave my path but maybe proceed, that means seeing my own way as a tool. I hope to stay in contact.”

Here are a few examples of Huszar’s diversity in artworks besides his paintings, of which one a video of a mechanical dancing figure made in 1920.

Mayors necklace - 1956 Boys bedroom family Bruynzeel

Mayors necklace - 1956 / Boys bedroom family Bruynzeel - 1920

When I got to the museum I still had half an hour until closing time. The two and a half hour travel turned out to be four and a half hours. Fortunately this was enough to see the exhibition about Vilmos Huszar and even get a private tour by a guide. The exhibition was divided in three rooms, all showing many different artworks of Vilmos Huszar. The exhibition focused especially on the works he made after he left de Stijl. Some of the artworks exhibited were never shown to a public before. Even though he stopped making artworks in the style of de Stijl, I could find small details in his paintings like a red straight line. 

A seated lady - 1932-1933

A seated lady - 1932-1933

When walking back to the station I realized Harderwijk was actually a very cozy city (yes it’s a city). It apparently has a beach and it was once a craft city, before 1955 it was a nice fisherman’s town at the open Zuider Zee. The people were very kind and helpful. I would recommend a small visit to Harderwijk to everyone. I suppose Vilmos Huszar lived near Harderwijk because it was a more peaceful place than The Hague, which might have inspired him. When I got in the train to go back to Arnhem I saw an old man waving to the train. Harderwijk is the city where Dutch children visit their grandparents for a few days and then wave each other goodbye at the train station. I was told Harderwijk was the end of the world, a place where you wouldn’t want to be found either dead or alive and that it had a great coffee shop. I believed it but now I know it’s not the end of the world.  

Harderwijk view

Harderwijk view

After Huszar left De Stijl he got many commercial art requests from C. Bruynzeel and Miss Blanche. He made many artworks in different styles, often with small details referring to De Stijl. He would for instance put a red line in a realistic painting. In December 1939 he and his wife Jeanne moved to Hierden, a small village near Harderwijk, because of the war danger. Here he had the chance to go on with making art. During the war he was active in the resistance Migchelsen. In 1945 Jeanne died and not even one month later he got together with his housemaid Anke van der Steen with who he got married in 1953. Jeanne’s parents were very rich, but after her death Huszar was left with only his atelier. Anke, Vilmos and his kid moved to the atelier. They were very poor so Huszar started trading art for basic needs. For instance the still life of a bottle of Hollandia Water to his housemaid.

still life with bottle of Hollandia water 1946-1947

Still life with bottle of Hollandia water - 1946-1947

In the last few years of his life he went back to painting like he did when he was still in De Stijl. On 8 September 1960 Vilmos Huszar passed away in Harderwijk.

a cooperative research by Athena Potamianos & Justine Wesselo

Her Previous Incarnation


Sunday, April 17, 2016
 

"Don't ask from where I have come, 
My home is far, far away. 
Why do you wander so far? Wander so far?"
- "Olive Tree" by Sanmao 

Sanmao to me was an incurable romantic, a lonely dreamer and a gifted drifter who had spent most of her life travelling and writing. The stories and the journals she wrote beautifully reflected the unforgettable journeys she undertook, the incredible places and people she had seen. Sanmao studied philosophy in Taiwan and continued her education later on in Spain and Germany. After her study and the tragical loss of her fiancé, Sanmao returned to Spain and there she made up her mind to follow the sunset of Sahara . Her life as a drifter and a writer then began.

 

sanmao in sahara

 

I’ve always been very much moved and inspired by the stories of her life journey, as her writings didn’t only describe the wonderful experiences of her trips but also illustrated the difficult realities she had to deal with. (Here is one of her stories – “The Mute Slave” collected in the book “The Stories of Sahara”.)  Because of her kindness and courage, she was able to prepare herself to face all the challenges and risks of her adventure. To me Sanmao’s writings mean much more than a travelogue, significantly they stand for her values of life. Therefore, I decided to take Sanmao as the person/source of my inspiration for this “Identity” design project.

As I was quite familiar with her books, in her writings what interested me the most was her fascination with her previous incarnation. In the book “Wan Shui Qian Shan Zou Bian”, she wrote that she had always believed she was an Ecuadorian Indian girl in her last life. When she traveled to one remote village hidden in the Andes, she felt immensely connected to the highland, as if she had come back to the homeland of her previous life.  As she wrote, in her last life she was a Cañari (“an indigenous ethnic group traditionally inhabiting the territory of the modern provinces of Azuay and Cañar in Ecuador”) girl named Hawa. The name Hawa in their language means heart. She was a pharmacist’s granddaughter who lived her entire life happily and peacefully in the village of the silver lake (also known as the lake of heart) till her death.

 

 wan shui qian shan zou bian

“Wan Shui Qian Shan Zou Bian” in Chinese

 

As her imaginary previous life fascinated me so much, I decided to design the headpiece based on her last life story and research on the indigenous inhabitants of Ecuador as a starting point. It was at first difficult to figure out the ethnicity of Hawa in English and there was no Chinese information regarding the ethnic group she belonged to. However, after several rounds of research on the history of the indigenous people of Ecuador, I was able to confirm that Hawa’s ethnicity was Cañari. Research on history, culture  and custom of the Cañari was then further conducted.
Interestingly, I found the Cañari indians loved wearing hats. “Those of you who have been following our South American journey know how important, and ubiquitous, hats are to the people of the Andes. Fedoras are to be found everywhere, stovepipes are not uncommon, and the Cholas of Bolivia have turned blower hats into a jaunty fashion statement of national pride. Many wear straw hats, and in Ecuador at least, have them refurbished by painting them to make them last longer. I must also mention Panama hats, which are not from Panama at all, but are exclusively an Ecuadorian creation”, Alison and Don wrote in their post The Cañari of Ecuador, a ‘palace’ and a pig”. 

 

p1450898 copy 500 canaris loving wearing hats2

Nevertheless, among the different types of hats they wear, I found one kind that was particularly special. The hat is made with a wide brim and many strands of colourful yarns falling from the edge. The Cañaris usually wear it for festivals and celebrations.

 

canaris celebration

On the other side of my research, I discovered the Cañaris created a very unique moon worshipping system using large rocks. “The Incas worshipped the sun, but the Cañaris worshipped the moon. There are 28 holes on the larger rock, one for each day in a lunar month.  Each hole is drilled at a different angle and when water is added, the Cañaris would look at the reflection of the moon in the small pools. This was their way of receiving messages from their god.  The other “holey rocks” were most likely used to hold paint (for painting faces, textiles, etc), “ Mellisajane14 wrote in her blog “Ingaprica: Incas in Ecuador”.

 

ingapirca_calender_rock_small.1 copy

 

After a few rounds of research, I began to develop ideas for the design of the headpiece for Hawa. In the end I decided to make masks for her to wear, as I believed Hawa – the preexistence of San Mao should be a vague figure without revealing a clear face.

 

DSCF5521 small 515w

Meanwhile, inspired by those bright, colourful yarns and holy rocks, I planned to seek and experiment with similar and relevant materials so as to resemble the Cañari elements. Wood and bamboo were selected due to their primitiveness associated with the Cañari indians. Clay and small rocks were also applied, echoing those incredible rocks.

 

DSCF5505 small 950h DSCF5508 small 950h DSCF5539 small 950h

 

After the experimental trials with materials, a clearer image of the mask that I wanted to make gradually emerged. The try-outs with the clay mask as well as the small rocks didn’t turn out strong enough to mirror the Cañari moon worshipping system. However, the results of colourful yarns in combination with wood and bamboo were quite intriguing. Hence, I decided to further continue the mask concept mainly using yarn, bamboo and wood. As the techniques of applying yarns I developed during the experiments were different, I was suggested to make two masks using both techniques (yarn with wood and yarn with bamboo). In the first technique, long strands of yarn in selected colours were made and locked to an organic-shaped wooden stick that was found in the street, creating the idea of a mask that could cover most of the body. While in the other one, yarns were applied as components to bind the bamboo sticks.

 

small DSCF5163 small  

As I discovered that yarn strands in volume and layers would turn out more visually powerful in the form of masks, and bamboo sticks bound with brightly coloured yarns placing vertically would create a refreshing effect. Therefore, I decided to continue working on the mask of yarn strands by creating more volume in layers. On the other hand, I tried to come up with a few scale models to explore the overall shape of the bamboo mask. I found that a mask of bamboo sticks in different lengths and a more or less geometric shape could be primitive and fit well in the Cañari vibe. I eventually chose one shape that I thought would connect to the story the best and made a paper mock-up of it.

 

DSCF5511 small 950h DSCF5513 small 950h DSCF5514 small 950h

DSCF5532 small 950h

Simultaneously, I kept working on the mask with layers of the yarn strands. In the initial plan, hemp rope was used to coin around both the ends of the wooden stick, building a vast contrast between the fineness of the yarn and roughness of the rope, while small gaps were left between the yarn and the rope for hair fixation, creating a way for Sanmao/Hawa to put the mask on. However, I discovered it would be even stronger to leave out the hemp rope and cover the rest of the wooden stick using only hair.

 

DSCF5217 small 950h hemp rope ard the stick

 

As for the bamboo mask, I continued building and finishing it according to the mock-up and came up with another means of fixation by attaching a few strands of straw rope to tie around Sanmao/Hawa’s body. The process of building was a bit struggling due to the difficulty of binding the slightly bended bamboo sticks.

 

DSCF5178 small 950h DSCF5189 small

Nevertheless, after two months of efforts, the masks were eventually finished. Although there were struggles and doubts, I was quite happy with the process as well as the results. After finishing the works, I decided to try them on for photo documentation. As you can see, the photos were taken in different settings. Wearing the colourful headpiece with the long yarn strands, I thought that it was necessary to feel the wind and frame the yarn flying moment at my balcony. I felt spiritual and  being transformed into a shaman from an Andes tribe. It was incredible. When I firstly put on the bamboo mask, I felt the urge of being completely natural. I wore the bamboo mask naked and did some tribal dancing and humming in my room. I felt happy and free then. In the end, I decided to keep the pictures taken at the balcony original and fresh, while adding some effects to the photos of the bamboo mask, making it a bit strange and whimsical.

 

1 small w515 for design blog

3 small w515 for design blog 14 small w515 for design blog 11 small w515 for design blog

 

I’m certainly glad that my father introduced Sanmao’s books to me at my younger age, when talking about the relations between writing and experiences of life. Without her journeys, I believe that she couldn’t have told so many wonderful stories. And it definitely helped me to rediscover myself and to a certain extend shaped my view/values of life. To me life is a long journey after all. I  made these two masks for her/ her previous incarnation in remembrance of her free spirit. These two masks carry special meanings to me, as they were made for Sanmao – an incurable romantic, a lonely dreamer and a gifted drifter who I feel deeply in common with. 

 

Goodbye Sanmao.

 

 

 sanmao's photo with a white boarde w515

 

 


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