A Visitors Exhibition
A Visitors Exhibition
Solo Exhibition: Gemma Jonker, curated by Museologist Miracle May.
A Visitors Exhibition
Curator Miracle May walks us through the experience of abstract art
"Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes....Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.”
― Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Introduction to a Visitors Exhibition
This exhibition throws the concept of an exhibition on its head. Instead of presenting us with a final exhibition, our curator instead places herself in the viewer's shoes and freely elaborates all that comes to mind when viewing abstract art. Usually, this freeform association when looking at an exhibition is something that happens internally with the viewer. This internal dialogues and association of a gallery or museum visitor is seldom uttered aloud and even less likely to be recorded. This presentation of abstract art allows us to follow one individual subjective narrative around experiencing abstract art as abstract arts power lies in its subjectivity. Miracle freely associates to whatever the abstract paintings of Gemma conjure in her mind.
All text in italic is commentary by Tascha Sciarone the Gallery Manager at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone. Adding a little bit of structure or explanation to Miracle's interaction with Gemma's paintings.
Our viewer/curator in the gallery
Museologist: Miracle K.K. May. Curator of Gemma Jonker's solo exhibition
Miracle May is a museologist and second-year master's student studying Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) at the University of North-West in South Africa. A pioneer multidisciplinary programme within the art and academic world. Her core courses being in art and artefact preservation.
Miracle is also a brand ambassador for Rare Diseases South Africa, which is a non profit company (NPC) that is a support group for people with rare diseases. Miracle is also a staff volunteers at the Smile Foundation SA, a NPC that has done amazing work in assisting children from disadvantaged backgrounds to receive life-changing plastic surgery, to correct facial anomalies.
Miracle is a lover of art and history. She feels deeply in love with Gemma Jonker as it remaindered her of the Ndebele mural artworks with the geometrical shapes in her paintings.
Miracle connects with Gemma's paintings as there is a familiarity to them. That invites her further exploration. We engage in art when it sparks recognition. That recognition sparking a little bit of joy and interest to further engage. This is the first step in exploring new art.
Ndebele Mural Art and Abstract Art
According to the many African indigenous worldviews, geometrical shapes are used as a sign of protection. Geometrical shapes also influenced the Ndebele mural art. They are painted on their huts and mud houses to protect them from enemy damager; it can quickly blind or confuse the enemy. The indigenous Ndebele group is a Bantu ethnic group found in many southern African countries, with their mainlands in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Ndebele geometrically painted houses started as a way for these heavily oppressed group to communicate with each other. During the racist Apartheid and the English colonial rule of South Africa and Zimbabwe, these paintings evolved to send messages that ranged from personal prayers, self expression, social status, protest and marriage.
The patterns and shapes are a critical aspect of the messages passed. They are first drawn with a black outline and filled with colour. There are five primary colours are used in Ndebele house art: red, yellow, sky blue, green and pink. Each colour with geometric shapes communicating specific messages to their community.
To this day, women still paint their houses by hand. These styles of paintings are usually passed down matrilineally through the generations.
For many South Africans, these beautifully painted Ndebele houses are the first introduction to abstract art. Where colour and line come together to form meaning when language cannot be used to communicate the joys and hardships of life. Whether or not one knows about or has the ability to decode the messages, the houses are part of the countries landscape and shared consciousness.
The Ndebele's are known for their geometrical shaped paintings on their huts and their beautiful colourful attires. They are so known for having large rings around their necks and ankles as well as colourful materials used for clothing and blankets. Gemma Jonker has a couple of artworks that are geomatical shaped, and they remind me of the Ndebele mural artwork.
Als een vis in het water I - Gemma Jonker
Als een vis in het water I (2020) Gemma Jonker Acrylic on Canvas 50cm x 70cm
When I look at this painting, it captives my mind as details of the painting makes a person see more than one painting, and the geometrical patterns give off a certain rhythm.
Geometrical shapes create a parallel on how artwork could be in our natural world. We are conflicted by spaces in our life that complicate the essence of the living, and through geometry, we imagine things the way they could be.
Abstract 2 - Gemma Jonker
Abstract 2 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 80cm x 80cm
This painting has a unique essence of peace and thoughtfulness. It grabs your attention in the room; one cannot help but look at it. The colours of yellow representing joy, warmth, and energy; its significance and uniqueness allow the owner to feel a sense of calmness.
I can only imagine what imagery they might think it is. Skyscrapers? Fishes? Mountains? The artwork makes one wonder yet still feel a sense of calmness. I noticed Gemma Jonker advocates for peace in her paintings. The blue is undoubtfully everywhere.
It makes me feel creative and aware of my surroundings. African indigenous knowledge systems describe patterns as a spiritual journey. This journey is taken to achieve oneness with your soul and your body. It also sends out a communion with nature and everything that breaths with it. Abstract paintings can take you on a journey centring you in nature and putting you in contact with the heavens.
Abstract 1 - Gemma Jonker
With some paintings Miracle takes her time to engage and view the paintings.
Abstract 1 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 90cm x 90cm.
This painting can be seen as a robust and powerful painting. It is bold and has a sense of mystery that creates a sense of wonder and amusement.
The blue ocean, the blue skies or the blue days one might have after this pandemic brings an image of a world we all can relate to. Growing up, I always admired how confident people were how our celebrities became so popular and liked. Now I see the world as chaotic and confusing and the black in the painting is seen as a colour of death or omen, but it describes life expectations and changes and disappointments. We all had plans for 2020. We had goals, but we ended up with a void but we still hope for the future.
The painting tells a lot about the room. This painting perfectly fits the background, allowing the person to look at the abstract wonder bestowed against the wall.
Positive and Negative spaces are what makes the painting artwork. Positive space is simply the painting against the green wall brightening up the whole room; the negative space is the space between the painting and the rest of the room, allowing the harmony of both dark and light colours to flow.
Standing against a wall feels empty and sometimes feels isolating. My grandmother always told me a piece of a bare wall is like a void of your own heart, and filling it with beauty and hope helps it feel the spirit with satisfaction and fulfilment.
This painting reminds me of the Black-tailed Godwit bird. It is a national bird known for its black eyes and long peak, and I only wonder if Gemma had some inspiration for it or if my eyes are deceiving me.
Abstract 5 - Gemma Jonker
Miracle has seen the painting, but it doesn't spark any further thoughts or contemplation and she moves on to the following painting. Remember not all art speaks to you and there is no reason to engage or spend on energy on something you feel nothing for.
Abstract 5 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 90cm x 70cm.
Abstract 4 - Gemma Jonker
Abstract 4 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 90cm x 90cm.
Abstract 4 by Gemma Jonker
This painting would illicit love for many people from bush areas because the colours remind you of the African bush—both in the dry season of the summer and the wet autumns. The natural colours are in beautiful harmony. When I look closer, I can see an elephant. Elephants are known for being giant and gentle creatures. To some Africans, an elephant is a totem of fulfilment and sustainment as they symbolise wealth and abundance. The elephant and the colours of this painting remind me of travelling and being in the bushveld around wild animals.
Abstract 6 - Gemma Jonker
Abstract 6 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 90cm x 70cm.
Abstract 6 by Gemma Jonker
Brown is the colour of the earth, and knowing Holland is known for its wooden shoes might have been the inspiration for the different shades of brown. The painting expresses wholesomeness, reliability, elegance, security, healing, home, warmth, and honesty. The use of these colours gives are associated with fall and winter but also peace and stillness.
Creativity in life is seen as either a gift or a curse. People innovated modern medicine but sometimes getting a finished product requires misconduct in some areas. People fear the process of the vaccine rollout; some people fear the side effects of the vaccines, but most of all, people fear the disease still being around even after everyone has been vaccinated.
Being in a world where there is so much uncertainty is nerve wrecking. Our countries are all dealing with issues other than the covid 19 pandemic, from police shooting innocent people in America just because they are of particular skin colour. To the commission of inquiry trying to end corruption in South Africa at the ruling party's expense, potentially losing the next election. Gender-Based Violence has been a pandemic in a pandemic. A pandemic shows us life is more complex than solving one problem and hoping it solves every challenge people have been facing.
Abstract 3 - Gemma Jonker
Abstract 3 (2019). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 90cm x 70cm.
Abstract 3 by Gemma Jonker
The colour purple with white is often associated with royalty, nobility, power, and ambition. Purple also represents creativity, wisdom, dignity, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, and magic. It is seen in two sides of the painting in the corners allowing a flow of mystery.
The red and orange brighten and excites the viewers' energy as they look deeply into the painting. It is playful, energetic, and engaging also feels like a moving picture. Red-orange can also be a symbol of health and life.
Hortus Botanicus - Gemma Jonker
Hortus Botanicus (2008). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Canvas. 100cm x 70cm. Consists of two canvasses of 50cm x 70cm.
Hortus Botanicus by Gemma Jonker
A tranquillity painting gives you the feeling of being at the Hortus Botanical garden in The Netherland. The Netherlands is known for windmills, wooden shoes, and tulips. Viewers could see a pinkish tulip bringing pride to the national flower. These incredible details in the painting are mesmerising. It allows one to think out of the box, see the beauty in every shade and line, and impress the Netherland beauty as a nation of beautiful spring flowers.
Paradijs - Gemma Jonker
Paradijs (2016). Gemma Jonker. Oil on Canvas. 60cm x 80cm.
Paradijs by Gemma Jonker
Paradijs is a painting where the flow of light and dark colours curves through the painting with the flowers and leaves. It reminds us of how nature was uninterrupted during the pandemic. Although humanity dealt with more than what they could handle, nature breathed for the first time flowers blossomed. This painting reminds us that the world is still beautiful even through difficult times.
Ootmarsum - Gemma Jonker
Ootmarsum (2014). Gemma Jonker. Acrylic on Board. 40cm x 50cm.
Ootmarsum by Gemma Jonker
Paintings like Ootmarsum reminds me of old Disney movies. They make a person all fuzzy inside. It's this similarity to Disney's traditional format that grabbed my attention. It makes a person look to the future through the paintings peace and quietness. The natural colour of green is used ideally in this painting; it is almost as if one can smell the leaves and trees. The gentle painting brushes carefully painted the flowers as flowers of a midsummer afternoon so beautiful and bloomy.
Closing thoughts by Miracle
In today's world filled with conflicting ideologies and worldviews, one quickly thinks one's view is better than the other. Gemma's Acrylic Paintings reminds us of the uniqueness of our differences. Artwork can speak in many languages and in the context of many cultures.
Closing thoughts by Tascha - The Gallery Manager
Miracle's interest. Associations and thoughts are the perfect way to engage with a new artist.
Usually, it leads with recognition. In Miracle's case, she is reminded by geometric shapes she often encounters through her life in South Africa.
The following step is engagement. Miracle allowed herself to wander and be led by what visually interests her. Some paintings Miracle spent more time with. With others, she saw them but did not elicit a response from her.
When you deliberately engage with art in a museum, gallery or art fair, you do your research beforehand, but once again being led by your interests. What catches your eye, or what do you want to see? Not by what you think you are expected to acknowledge.
Let yourself free from expectations of what you should and should not engage with. What catches your eye is the only thing that should lead you.
In this same step, whatever response is illicit by the painting is the right one. There is no right or wrong. Your understanding of art is made up of the total of your experience before encountering this painting.
Engaging with art is a practice of engaging with yourself and being comfortable with yourself, and being open to experience new things.
About the Artist: Gemma Jonker
Gemma Jonker is a contemporary Dutch painter. Her combination of line and colour is what sets her work apart. There is always a continuous interplay with lines and colour. Technically speaking, all composition is created through how the artist combines lines and colour. The way Gemma applies line and colour from organic to geometric composition result in very harmonious paintings. The words that spring to mind when looking at her abstract paintings are; joyful, light and happy.
If you enjoyed the exhibition, please share it with your friends, family, co-workers, other artists and anyone you like.
All paintings are for sale.