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Painting with objects
Interview with Monika Dahlberg
Winter 2018: Painting Fog
Schwarzmalen 3: Artchapel
3rd edition 3rd year 2018
cover: Natalia Gontsorova carrying a Motherwell, while the position refers to the image of
Louise Bourgeois, after painting too many flowers and birds.
At the same time textile related
matter had my personal attention.
I tried to combine or work
with a lot of things at the same time. I
never wanted to choose for any style
nor was I trying to ind one style of my
own. Always believed that following my
passions would put things together or
lead to something unknown and better.
Costumes, watercolors 2017
Painting with objects
Geest uit de les
Expo: Famille Noire
Winter 2018: Fog
Interview with Monika Dahlberg
IIn this third edition of MARI/JA I like
to talk a bit about the background
of my painting. How it changed from
fundamental to really painted paintings.
When I was at art academy iguration
for example was not-done or it
had an almost reactionary reputation.
During the eighties this changed and
after that everything was possible in
In 2017 I inally found a studio which
is not temporary after 12 years. Since
a long time I have shared the studio
with Wim Vonk and Klaas de Jonge.
We moved further out of Amsterdam
to a small village called Oude Niedorp
in North Holland. It will provide some
I also had a conversation with Monika
Dahlberg and interviewed her about
how she is dealing with art history. This
is connected to important themes in my
Armando died while I was making this
magazine. For twenty years I did the
preliminary work of his sculptures. You
will ind the In Memoriam I wrote on
the last page.
Marja van Putten
Cover: Encounters m/f
I painted two more
Encounters in 2017. The
irst is the one on the cover
and they both show many
quotations that relect on
my opinion about women
Natalia Gontsorova carrying a
Motherwell, while the position
refers to the image of Louise
Bourgeois, after painting too
many lowers and birds.
Encounters, M/F, Natalia, 2018,
100 x 100 cm, various paints on
Paula Mohdersohn Becker with
her foot in the pan of Broodthaers
and her hand in an Armando
wheel, while Penck is
Encounters, M/F, Women in Art,
130 x 130 cm, various paints on
at Zakynthos) in the
summer of 2017, I
started a series of 3
three women wearing
costumes with a
cultural mix of clothes.
‘MARJA VAN PUTTEN
IS A PASSIONATE
The passion is recognizable in all her
paintings. It is not only the choice of
subjects, but also how she uses the material.
The material and the subject matter match
in each of her paintings as a key to its lock.
The cross-linking of material and subject is
often contagious and carried through to the
From a distance and on photos the paintings look The material on her canvases consists not
almost cheerful. They have a positive and energetic only of all kinds of paint in one painting,
appearance. The subjects come from everyday life. but also of colored fabrics, beads, buttons
Often with soft things, romantic, beautiful, friendly, etc. She has built up a large collection
nothing to worry about.
of textiles and yarns from which she can
choose. There is a wide variety of subjects in
her paintings, but always that characteristic
Nearby, however, you can see holes, cracks, scratches.
way of using the materials. The brush is
The painting looks raw and in some places bare and
regularly replaced by the drill, construction
rough. When it was made, the work was apparently
glue or needle and thread. The crosslinking
of material and subject has become
dealt with in a harsh manner.
increasingly stronger over the years. There
It is screwed, chorded, torn, pricked. It is scrubbed, are paintings with a sculpture-like character,
polished, showered. Buckets are thrown at it. In this with thick layers of paint in diferent
way, the painting is kneaded from front to back, grasped
and shaped three-dimensionally. Once they are works. In both, the viewer wanders around
materials, but also very transparent painted
inished, you may only handle them with silk gloves. as in an adventurous journey through
unprecedented landscapes or mysterious
spaces in which her characters try to keep
The approach to the subject is diferent in
every painting. Fascinating and confusing at
the same time.
The passion in the work of Marja van Putten
is an adventure for the viewer, One has to
go into it. An adventure awaits.
You experience her work best coming close
to them. Pictures of Marja’s works relate
to the real work as a photograph of a plate
with food to a real dinner.
Vera de Groot 2013
Since 1996 I started to paint with iguration.
I worked with objects and with
objects on shelves ixed to the paintings
in a very associative way. I refrained
from judging the content, images
and composition before they were on
many already has been done. For centuries
paint has been messed with and
in many diferent ways, a quality that
can’t be matched by any screen. That is
why a painting must also be ‘painted’,
you must see the paint, no matter how
thin or empty some pieces are: not only
use the material, but also listen to the
In the years 2000-2008 I was also working
a lot with the computer. The Digt_
paint years (painting with paint and
pixels) were important to work more
quickly and try out a lot in composing
and inding content.
Since 2006 I started to work with only
paints again. In this magazine I will
show the highlights. Characteristic are
the contradictions in one painting and
in each painting separately. This has
always been present in my work, contrasts
in the use of material, art historical
quotes, themes and painting styles.
My paintings contain a multitude of
images and associations, which can be
confusing in terms of content and art.
In every painting something pinches:
an opposition. One painting yields
in a clear image and in another your
thoughts keep circling around. The coherence
in the work is not easy to discover,
but requires an accurate associative
investigation from the spectator.
What for one spectator is a cacophony,
is a feast of color for the other.
Windmill Path, 2013,190 x 145 cm
The nice thing about painting is that so
next page: Costumes I, II, III, 2017, watercolor, 230 x 125 cm
Iused to photograph my paintings outside,
hang them on the sound barrier
along the motorway, or lay them on the
ruin of a building. Now I use objects as
foreign elements, which refer to something
outside the painting. Perhaps it is
impossible to break through the introverted
world of the painting or maybe
there is enough friction to confuse the
viewer and the maker… The nice thing
about painting is that so many already
has been done.
For centuries paint has been messed
with and in many diferent ways, a
quality that can’t be matched by any
screen. That is why a painting must also
be ‘painted’, you must see the paint, no
matter how thin or empty some pieces
are: not only use the material, but also
listen to the material.....
Hemeldoek, 1997, various paints, shelfs, objects on canvas, 185 x 156 cm
Kijken naar Tillie,1998, various paints, objects, silicone sealant, shopping bag on canvas
Zu Hause, 2011, 165 x 210 cm, various paints and materials, textile on canvas and wallpaper 11
detail 1998 detail 2011
detail 2003-2017 detail 2005
detail 1997 detail 2010
detail 2017 detail 202
detail 2018 detail 2013
detail 2011 detail 1997
The genie is out of the bottle
This series of 4 paintings with a frame made
of textile were shown at the exhibition
Kwasiafrikani in 2008. The exhibition showed
art from African artists and artists with
a relation to the subject matter of colonial
history, both from an African and a European
Made in China, 2008, 190 x 130 cm
Phoenix, 2008, 190 x 130 cm 15
Red Dragon, 2008, 190 x 130 cm 17
Rich peoples painting, 2008, 190 x 130 cm
The Maritime Museum describes it thus:
This striking and rare figure of an African was purchased
by the Maritime Museum (Amsterdam) in March 2018.
Not only is it an important piece to present as a product
of international trade by sea, but it also offers the opportunity
to place the stories from our maritime history in a
much broader perspective.
This small sculpture
could have been in
the painted room on
the one on the left,
next to the plates:
....How did they get
rich? Objects can’t
tell the whole story.
The figure connects stories about the trade between
Europe and the Far East, those of interactions between
cultures, clients and luxury, but also of prejudices, stereotyping
and the deprivation of freedom by slavery.
The statue was produced in China by order of a wealthy
European. We also call this Chine de Commande. It shows
a special mix of influences and interpretations. Famille
Noire refers to the complicated and expensive technique,
in which the body is covered with black enamel.
Small chance that the Chinese modeler has ever seen a
real African. He will have drawn on European prints and
given them his own twist. Although he has given African
divine status by letting him rise like a Buddha on a lotus
leaf, we see also various stereotypical characteristics that
are more often attributed to people from African backgrounds.
In our time, for example, the bright eyes, the
earrings and the red lips are seen as ‘racist’ or ‘inappropriate’.
In the 17th century there was less awareness of this:
the statue would have been an exotic status symbol in
the house of a very rich family.
like the combination of ‘dirty’ paint and ‘clean’ textile. It is the way they oppose and go together
I simultaneously. In 2018 I also made some new abstract paintings with this combination. I work a
lot on diferent things at the same time and can come back to it years later. After some time I can
group them together. They seem to be the most abstract paintings I made up to this point.
l.t.r: Abstract with tie, Abstract with mouse, 50 x 65 cm, 2014
under: Abstract igure, 90 x 120 cm, 2014-2018
Abstracts, 204-2018 21
(gem. Hollandse kroon NH)
II have been working on a 3D
work called ‘Tentenkamp’ for a
SET#NET exhibition. The second
photo shows the surrounding of
studio situation, 2018, working on SET#NDSM, Tentenkamp
Painting with accidents...
Iam known for throwing things down
or stumbling over something I put
there a minute ago myself. Sometimes
I change a big layer of paint on
purpose. Cleaning, rubbing the surface
of a painting always has been part of
the painting process under the shower
or with buckets of water (turpentine..).
It happened again when I worked on
the tents. One of the tents I turned upside
down which made a great shape. I
decided to paint the bottom while the
tent was laying on one side. Beautiful!
Later this paint came of far too easy…
With boiling water and a bop it came
of… I found out the hard way…
studio situation, 2018, working on SET#NDSM, Tentenkamp
Winter 2018: Fog
The quietness of the surroundings of
the new studio are a treat for the
soul. I enjoyed the area very much
especially in the winter when it was foggy,
wet and cold.
It forces me to a more introspective
attitude which provided some landscape
paintings in a complete diferent color
Winterlandscape, 2018, 100 x 100 cm, various paints, knitted form
Winterlandscape, 2018, 100 x 100 cm, various paints, knitted form 25
Winterlandscape, 2018, 100 x 100 cm, various paints, knitted form
Winterlandscape, 2018, 100 x 100 cm, various paints, threats 27
Queen of Surinam
I made this painting after a
stay in Surinam’s interior as an
artist in residence in 2012.
I googled the image of this
Surinam woman and painted
her on a canvas in which I irst
She is standing on a balustrade
like a queen, wearing a traditional
This shows immediately that
she is a black Surinam woman.
As a white European woman
I hesitated to color her face:
it seemed too easy a way to
paint a Surinam woman. First
of all painting her skin white is
the best artistic choice for me
and secondly I hope to disturb
stereotypical expectations as
well. You can still see anyway
this woman is from Surinam.
White kotomisi and queen of Surinam,
2012, 190 x 100 cm, various paints,
uttons, necklace, wood
Monika Dahlberg is very active on FB, I saw her energy,
follow her great work and humorous posts. Recently I
went to see her work at the PaltzBiennale, where she
showed a group of African art sculptures, which she
painted white. Most of the African objects came out
of our studio. The collection of African art of Klaas de
Jonge, anthropologist and human rights defender for 40
years, has found a home in the studio of Wim Vonk and
me. During the setup of the exhibition Monika received
some negative responses and questions: could she do
this? Change these pieces while they are cultural heritage
I have lived for more than 10 years with Klaas’ African
artworks in my studio. Klaas worked in African countries
fo forty years and knows fascinating stories about each
object. They were part of his work and connections to the
people in Africa. I am curious to know more about how
Monika looked at these works herself and about her act
of painting them white.
Monika: I now worked with these African statues but I don’t want
be seen as the artist who is only focused on Africa and black history.
I lived almost my whole life here in Holland so I also share that
history. My African roots are a part of me and not the whole story. I
just want to be an artist without any label like woman, black and so
on… and see myself in a greater whole.
Marja: Ok, but art comes from inside, from a personal source,
the soul of the artist. How can you avoid the facts that you are a
woman, black, born in Kenia and living in the Netherlands?
Monika: No, those are facts which I cannot deny but they are just
not my basic start or only focus. My work is not typically Western
but also not non-Western. I think it could be made even by you or
somebody else. I wonder which part makes me an African artist,
which part a Western artist and which part an artist?
Marja: You don’t analyze that for yourself?
Monika: No, not really. Now I used African art, which refers to
where I came from, mainly because I don’t know much about it.
I have to study and talk to people
the same as you would have to
do. For example Klaas knows a lot
about them, almost like a ‘white
negro man’. He looks at them
from an African point of view and
perhaps had to let go some of his
Marja: If those sculptures you
used were painted white by me
would that be diferent for you ? For me it would be a
Monika: I think it’s easier for me because it’s further
away from you, it’s not logical, normally not a part of
your world. So, this raises more questions for you and
you need to explain more. I do not need to explain a
certain part of it. In that sense, it does matter, but I
think it should not. I also want the inal image to be
independent. If you don’t know who made it and only
see the image, it must be a powerful image in its own
Marja: if I would paint that image white, I need to
explain more and I need to justify what I am doing in
Monika: You would be asked what you are doing more
quickly than when a dark person is doing that, as she is
busy with her own history.
Marja: You can also say that we have a common history,
but we each have our own role in it.
Monika: Yes. It’s precisely why I paint them white, I make
them the same for the eye, although that’s not the case, you can also turn it around.
The white layer I put on top of them does not hide where they came from. I often feel
like that, as a black person I came to a country with white people and that’s what I’m
Marja: You can also look at it like this: Images have been stolen from Africa, and are
now in Western possession. If I paint them white or maybe rather pink, maybe those
images show the same idea. So what’s the diference?
Monika: People will ask you why you do that? If you live somewhere and you adapt to
the country where you live, you search for what makes you you.
PaltzBiennale 2018, Monika Dahlberg
If you were living in Africa, you would look for things from Europe.
Marja: But then I ind things I would hate to see, for example, things that remind of
the slave trade. I wouldn’t use that so easily in my work...
Monika: But you can... precisely to make this visible. I don’t work for example with
Ceasar, the Roman emperor… hahaha
Marja:.. haha ... but you do work with European painting history sometimes, or Jan
van Riebeeck. You give them the Mickey Mouse ears too...
Monika: Yes, but that is another series of work, it refers to western cultural history.
I grew up here and live in a western society. The question is then: where are WE.. ?
Black people don’t often go to museums, because they don’t feel connected. But I
want to know more about that history, want to know what happened. In a way we
all want to be one big family on earth, but that’s not possible. By giving all people the
Ears I take away all their power, richness , nobility etc.. and by giving everybody those
ears it is like taking away peoples’ clothes.
I also make them funny and who knows, people then will come to the museum…
In the end I would love to show the sculptures or other work I made in Africa, and see
how they respond to this. What do they really think from their perspective?
Marja: Did you get any responses from other black artists?
Monika: No, not really. On
Instagram I have some Afro-
American friends. They did like
it but it was not a discussion.
But in the Whitney museum you
have more of these discussions,
they are the museum in the
U.S. that show ‘Black art’, they
are far ahead of us in this way.
Also in South Africa there are
inally openings of another kind
of art, not only the Western
mainstream art is leading.
Things have to change here too.
We are here in the Netherlands
not that far. We have so many
people from diferent countries,
there must be artists among
them, talented artists. But I
don’t see them, not in museums,
not at openings, they don’t get
Collage Monika Dahlberg
Black people are missing everywhere: on television, in politics, in Dutch movies,
blacks who have the leading role or black people in the streets in movies. It is changing,
look at the Sloggy ads, you suddenly see a black person in underwear, or in
other ads you see a black boy, but very obvious. In the arts it is more stereotype, you
don’t see so many black artists.
I would like more mixed exhibitions with artists from diferent backgrounds.
Again, I now used this kind of traditional objects, you could see it as traditional, but
I still don’t want to become that Dutch-African-woman-artist and so and so… don’t
want to be in this kind of box. I want to be seen as an artist and be part of the greater
picture of art and history worldwide.
July 2018 Kattendijke
After this conversation I read the discussion about a painting in the Whitney Museum:
Open Casket by Dana Schutz (1976). A major riot broke out. The work is based
on wellknown photographs of Emmett Till’s unrecognizably damaged face in his
open coin. The 14-year-old black boy was horribly murdered by two white men in
Mississippi in 1955 after a white female shop assistant had falsely accused him of
(translated from a Volkskrant article by Anne Van Driel 30 maart 2017)
The problem with Open Casket, according to some, is its creator: Dana Schutz is white.
And that makes her use of these images - singular proof of the lack of rights for
black America - for them as an ‘inappropriate
appropriation’. An improper appropriation
that must be removed from the museum.
After all, where does Schutz derive the right
to hijack a subject in which it is impossible
for her, from her privileged white position,
Compared to this kind of discussion the
conversation between Monika and me is
quite sweet and nice. I really don’t know
what my opinion would be in this. Would
I destroy my painting if I made it just to
make a positive contribution to history?
In a way I can understand that it is time to
keep your mouth shut and listen. It also
reminds me of the feeling I had when men
started to use textile in their art. It made
me angry at the time. Now I think: shouldn’t
art be a free area to create and research?
And we need humor, a power which
can open up.
Hero, 60 x 80 cm, 2012, oil-, acrylic, beads
I like art because I can make things we have never
seen before, images that surprise me and the
spectator. They pop up from my subconscious
mind and I can only give meaning later on. If you
make art with this attitude most things you create
are ‘strange’, unknown. For me the conversation
with an artwork inished or in progress is the most
valuable in making art. It can show us connections
we never thought of before.
Fly Away, 2007, various paints, necklace on canvas, 90 x 90 cm
This is a detail of a big size c-print (2.10 x 2.10 cm) made in 2006. At the time I was manipulating
found images and parts of photographed paint. I wanted to give the prints a ‘painted quality’.
Later when the printers were getting (too) good this became more diicult to do. The start of
large size printing (around 2000), blowing up a print made a lot of surprising details visible. The pixels
developed in an unexpected way. After it was printed I also used paint over the printed canvas. This
print is part of 4 prints of this size, they all have a mix of historical and traditional images combined with
contemporary inluences (IKEA for example).
Stranger, 2006, c-print on canvas, 220 x 220 cm 33
Schwarzmalen is a critical art project about public participation
and crowdfunding, relating to artists’ income. It is an
initiative of Astrid Moors and Marja van Putten.
With Schwarzmalen we question the call for public participation
and also the much-vaunted possibility of financing the
‘creative industry’ with crowdfunding. Public participation is
hot. In politics and society the idea lives that art must have
a ‘social use’ and be ‘broadly supported’. Artists who seek
adventure and do not earn any money with their work are labeled
hobbyists or are ‘out of date’.
The name Schwarzmalen is derived from the painting ‘Höhere Wesen
befahlen: rechte obere Ecke schwarz malen’ by Sigmar Polke
There have been three editions of Schwarzmalen in 2014, 2015
and 2018. The last one took place in Artchapel in Amsterdam
Zuid in April 2018. As with the previous two Schwarzmalen projects,
we have sold empty canvases again. This time through
the website Voordekunst.nl to test if it is possible to crowdfund
autonomous art. This was rather successful.
more info on: schwarzmalen.nl
Schwarzmalen 3, Exhibition, Art Chapel, april 2018
Still from video Unicorns, 2018 (Milkmaid pose)
Schwarzmalen 1 /m 3
it black) is a project on
Facebook, I am organising
together with Astrid
Moors. In 2018 for the
third time with 8 artists.
The project is a critical
point of view against the
tendency to focus on the
commercial potential and
the taste of the public in
the arts lately. The title
refers to the painting of
Sigmar Polke. ‘Hohere Wesen
befahlen: rechte obere
Ecke schwarz malen’.
Assistent of Armando.
Since 1996 I do the
work for his sculptures.
Since 2005 together with
Wim Vonk. The sculptures
are also made in our studio.
Making this magazine
I heard he died 1-7-2018.
and member of the board.
Arttrust is my company,
other artists and creative
businesses since 2002.
Flags of the world is
a project started in
I made paintings from the
lags of all countries of the
world (2008) with decorations
related to their lag.
Digitaal Kunst Beheer
is an organization
founded in 2016. Its
goal is digital preservation
and acces of the oeuvre of
artists who passed away.
I am one of the initiators
Working on this magazine we suddenly
heard Armando died. Because I
worked with him for a long time I put
here he text that Wim Vonk and me
put on FB.
Working with and for Armando for more
than 20 years has become part of our
lives. It is very special to have experienced
his company and to know him as a
very friendly man. What laughs we had
on our way to our studio where another
sculpture in progress was waiting
for him. He then gave it the Armando
touch, making the sculpture alive.
After the very irst meeting I said in
surprise ‘as if I was in Herenleed for a
while, he really talks this way...’ In 1997,
when I did the preliminary work for the
irst sculpture, a Kopf, with not much
texture yet. This has changed over the
years. Many sculptures(>75) followed.
We have a ‘thick Armando book’ full of
many anecdotes and Armando expressions,
which, like many who knew him,
also became part of our own language.
After Armando’s recovery, Wim and I
became the permanent team to assist
him with his bronze sculptures. Jokes,
proverbs and recurring rituals made
working with him very intense. It was a
privilege to work with him.
We can safely say that Armando helped
us in the wedding boat after BOT
(2006). In the large workspace where
we have realized BOT, Wim and I created
our joint studio. A joint studio,
which we also made available to fellow
artists of diferent disciplines. The collection
of African art by Klaas de Jonge
became also part of it. In the large
space we could both develop our work
At the same time, we continued to do
the preliminary work for the Armando
sculptures. In fact, after BOT had been
made, both Wim’s installations and
Marja’s paintings have taken of. Many
people ask whether we have not learned
much from him, we certainly have,
especially his autonomous attitude as
an artist. Also the recognition of his
relativization and necessity at the same
time in regard to the making of art.
Unfortunately Armando turned out to
be no exception. He used to say: they
say ... You die, but I’m not sure...
Dear Armando, thanks for everything!
Marja van Putten
2 July 2018
Encounters, soloistic female igure, 2018, 100 x 100 cm
Various paints, textile, cuts, threads on canvas.
© Marja van Putten
design > Marja van Putten
text > Marja van Putten
editing > Annechien Verhey
email > email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
skype > marja.van.putten3
facebook > facebook.com/marja.vanputten
tel > +31 640662525
website > marjavanputten.nl
MARI/JA is a yearly Magazine - focussed on the artworks of Marja van Putten
Published by Arttrust Amsterdam