Olphaert den Otter at the Averard Hotel

I had to chance to do some freelance work for 27fleurus – not only condition report the works exhibited but also write their press release (versatility baby). The show has now unfortunately ended but do keep an eye on what’s cooking at the amazing place that is the Averard Hotel ; young artists and curators in an abandoned hotel in central London – yes please ! 


Olphaert den Otter at the Averard Hotel

27 Fleurus is delighted to take over the breakfast room of the Averard Hotel to present, for the first time in the UK, a selection of paintings by Dutch artist Olphaert den Otter (b. 1955). From his home city of Rotterdam, Olphaert den Otter produces series of paintings in the long standing medium of egg tempera to achieve clear, bright, pure and pastel-like colours to invite the viewer into his rather darker elsewhere(s). Inspired by, and often referencing, art history, philosophy or literature, den Otter draws from the past – not the least in his technique – to reinterpret the present and future of the humans of which his compositions are paradoxically exempt. Rendered universal rather than personal by this absence, his paintings allow the viewer to inhabit their shelters – as in the Refuge Morphology Series (2004-2007) – or reflect on his own imprint on the world as in the World Stress Paintings (started in 2009) and The Four Elements (2015) both presented here.

Diverting the classical idea of the water, air, earth and fire as fundamental constituents of everything that is, The Four Elements depict a pre-apocalyptic world where the nature we’ve been trying to grip and exploit escapes our control and floods, submerges, turns over, destroys and burns. Those visions, far from dystopian, depict the floods (Water), hurricanes (Air), wars (Fire) and mass killings (Earth) we know all too well from the news photographs that inspire the artist’s compositions. The elements feature as strongly in the World Stress Paintings – twenty examples of which are presented here – collection of beautifully eerie landscapes, burning buildings, wreckages and other manmade disasters, of contemporary Vanitas. In both series, the topicality of the subject matters makes the viewer loose his apparent innocence and forces to reflect on the traces we are imprinting on both nature and mankind. But it is not all doom and gloom, as den Otter insists on the sublime aspect of apparent destruction. There is always hope in change and renewal. Flowers grow again on the killing field. Humanity still stands.

The looming destruction in Olphaert den Otter’s paintings is beautifully paralleled by the surroundings of the Averard Hotel. There, the amalgam of abandonment and past grandeur echoes harmoniously with the subjective notions of waste and value so dear to the artist.

Standing proud since the 19th century, the exquisitely derelict hotel is lending its quarters, for its last few months before refurbishment, to a series of projects by young curators and artists. A sight not to be missed.

About the artist

Olphaert den Otter was born in 1955 in Portugaal in the Netherlands. He studied at the Willem de Kooning Academy (1976-1981) in Rotterdam, where he lives and works. He has had numerous solo and group shows including :

Solo (selection)

016 Caves Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

2016 Galerie Phoebus, Rotterdam

2014 Centraal Museum Utrecht, presentation purchase World Stress Painting Series

2008 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Group (selection)

2016 Snapshot of a larger order, De Ketelfactory, Schiedam

2015 Nieuwe gezichten op Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht

2015 Gevaar en Schoonheid – Turner en de traditie van het sublieme, De Fundatie, Zwolle en Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede

2014 Utopie Picturale 2, Fonderie Kugler, Genève

2014 Bruegelland/Hoge Horizon, artist’s initiative Voorkamer, Stedelijk Museum Lier, in collaboration with Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen

2014 Nothing but Good, Park Tilburg

2012 Secret Postcards, Jan van Eyckacademie, Maastricht

2012 Secret Gardens, Tent, Rotterdam

2011 dessin d’aujourd’hui et demain 6, espace Kugler, Genève, Switzerland

2010 Mode de Vie, Halle Nord, Genève, Switzerland

Public Collections 

Museum Bijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Centraal Museum, Utrecht

Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam

– Emilie Cloos


Yours truly working her best dervish pose (?) at the Averard Hotel


Exhibition Review – Tania Kovats


Tania Kovats – Watermark (exhibition view)

This is an article I wrote for the online contemporary art magazine this is tomorrow back in Feb. 2015 ; not so relevant now but the artist is worth a glance so here goes:

Tucked a few meters away from Regent Street’s busy pavement, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery has set aside a little alcove of tranquility for the urban stroller in presenting a selection of recent drawings by British artist Tania Kovats. In the continuity of ‘Oceans’, her recent solo show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Kovats explores in ‘Watermark’ the liquid element in its multitude of textures, impressions and geological implications.

Entering the gallery it is the large-scale ‘Sea Mark’ that first catches the eye, carving up a window towards the horizon into the room’s back wall. Reminiscent of Piet Mondrian’s ‘Pier and Ocean’ (1917) series, the blue brush marks decreasing in a grid of ceramic tiles instantly draw the viewer into the meditative contemplation of a tame ocean. With very simple means yet immediate effect, the work’s seemingly abstract composition succeeds in recalling a vivid naturalistic image. One cannot help but see – or rather feel – the slow yet constant motion of the waves, while the glazed ceramic support of the piece enhances the sensation of flickering reflection of light on water. The smaller-scale sister-work on paper nearby, ‘Sea Mark (Blue)’, prolongs the sensation with slightly less vigour but not without poetry. The colour of the light has shifted it seems, but again we are transported to the shore of an infinite ocean slowly lapsing towards an unknown horizon. With her seascapes, Kovats successfully manages to provoke impressions, a mental image of the ocean as gestalt.


Tania Kovats – Sea Mark – 2014


Alongside the infinity of the ocean we are invited to consider water on a more invisible scale. In her ‘Evaporations’, Kovats mixes inks, salts and water on paper. This reaction allows the water to be the main player and to leave its own imprint on the support through evaporation. Despite the relative predictability of the final result, the element of chance seems here paramount. We find in the ‘Evaporations’ something redolent of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Unhappy Readymade’ (1919) – a textbook left outdoors to be exposed to the elements. Each incorporates a natural process, one which shapes landscapes, and determines the appearance of the completed artworks. The results are not only visually appealing, with their multifaceted mineral qualities or their evocation of a fluctuating tide, but also emanate a strong contemplative essence. Looking at the ‘Evaporations’, as well as ‘Sea Marks’, one cannot help but be reminded of the serenity and spirituality of oriental landscapes and find in Kovats the qualities of a Lee Ufan. Indeed, in both series, the artist effectively prompts the eye to linger and the mind to wander.


Tania Kovats – Evaporation (Black) 21 – 2015

In this regard, other works on show – ‘Only Blue (British Isles)’ and ‘Arctic Circle Islands’ – might find themselves slightly overlooked, yet rightfully complement the exhibition as being essential to the understanding of Kovats’ practice. The show as a whole offers a small yet astute selection of the artist’s recent works and admirably conveys the poetry of Kovats’ waterscapes.

(see the original article here)

– Emilie C.