Amsterdam – For photographer Erwin Olaf, the Rijksmuseum – together with Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Breitner, and Jan Steen- has been an important source of inspiration and influence since he was a child. To honor his talent, the Rijksmuseum is staging an exhibition showcasing the artist’s photographic work alongside the Dutch paintings of his great examples. The opening of the exhibition will mark the transfer of Olaf’s core collection of works, as well his 60th birthday.
The Rijksmuseum owns 500 objects by Olaf, including portfolios, prints, videos, books, posters, and magazines. An opening ceremony will take place on July 2nd, 2019, and the exhibition will officially open to the public on the next day. Olaf tells us, “It fills me with pride that on my 60th birthday, I will be surrounded by an abundance of the beauty that has inspired me since my earliest youth. This is the root of my artistic expression.”
Working in close partnership with the Rijksmuseum’s director Taco Dibbits, Olaf chose eleven photographs and one video installation to be showcased alongside eleven paintings and one print from the Rijksmuseum collection. The exhibition aims to create a dialogue between past and present; one the artist is able to bridge effortlessly through his work. “All artists face the same challenges and use the same instruments: light, expression, texture. I recognize myself in these paintings; the inner need for self-expression,” Olaf tells us. “I find this exploration of the interior the toughest of all, but also the most enjoyable.”
In the exhibition, ‘Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue’ by Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck will be paired with Erwin Olaf’s Hope – Portrait 5. Olaf chose this painting due to the power behind the subject’s eyes. Eyes that Olaf finds utterly compelling due to Verspronck’s rendering of light in the subjects’ eyes. The details and texture of the fabric in the painting also influenced his choice. There are remarkable similarities between the two pieces of art: the blue and yellow dresses; the girl and the young woman. Both compositions are relatively simple. Without urging, Olaf’s model made the right gesture for the photograph – her hand supporting against the wall. Olaf considers this photograph and Verspronck’s painting as the results of synergy between the model and the artist.
The print ‘Nude Woman” by Rembrandt will be displayed alongside Erin Olaf’s 1987 photograph ‘La Penseuse (Squares).’ At the core of both works is the depiction of the subject’s skin, which is finely rendered in both cases. Like Rembrandt, Olaf made the deliberate decision to portray an imperfect body. To the artist, this model’s skin is more captivating than that of a young, flawless, and perfectly proportioned body that has not yet lived a life or has begun to age. – GM