The Gilded Blue Web of Louis Couperus @ Quartair

Last Friday, November 6, “Een Blauwe Kamer” or “A Blue Room” opened at Den Haag’s, Quartair, a contemporary art initiative and exhibition think space. Each artist (8 in total) were challenged to create a piece of work inspired by one or more texts written by the most revered and famous of all Dutch (specifically of the Hague) literary novelists and poets, Louis Couperus (1863-1923).

This exhibition explores the themes of his multifaceted oeuvre of artists now want to address and transform itself to contemporary art. By using contemporary imagery, which tradition does not necessarily shunned, the Couperus be described as striking themes raised in our time. These themes themselves are often not related to any particular time or a particular environment, but to the human condition in general: love, art, struggle, life dissatisfaction, fate. (Quartair)

Although the show was a team effort in both execution and design, the two artists behind this exhibition’s formula and theme are Astrid Nobel and Wieteke Heldens. Together the artists have collaboratively seamed together a tangible and ‘cohesively abstract’ show that grapples with the daily battle occurring between the contrasting dimensions of the mundane and the euphoria that occurs during rewarding work.

Upon entrance, one’s gaze dances from lit corner to corner, from high ceiling to glossy floor. Tim Breuker’s styrofoam sculpture embossed with epoxy snakes up and around a column arousing riddles of intrigue as it trails its way towards the ceiling where a dangling sweatshirt entices the mind to think of the explorative inhabitants who came before.

Seemingly suspended in space, a sculpted fairy tale by Robbert Pauwel offers a rendition of a hanging ‘psyche’ caught between disparity, complexity and unearthed reality.


Hanging in a wooden frame near the main wall, Astrid Nobel’s well-crafted canvas of delicate work alludes to Couperus’ text Metamorfoze, or Metamorphosis. The front is an absolute blossoming of shimmering gold and painted blues, which explode into bouquets of abstract spiral galaxies in a marbled milky way. Its inverse seems like a sad rendition of a wandering path; embroidered with no hope of return. This discrepancy was intentional. When asked why the canvas was not hung on a wall, Nobel responded that she wanted audiences to see the back of the piece as representing dismal dullness along with the emptiness that occurs when work is not actualized.


Wieteke Heldens chose to make two pieces based around the texts Antiek Toerisme, or Antiques Tourism and Extase, or Ectasy. From a distance Helden’s paintings take on a cellular universe of atomical proportion. Upon closer inspection, the eye jumps meditatively and simultaneously jumps from numbered brushstroke to numbered dollop.


Playful yet well researched, Heldens plucked out every color mentioned in both texts, sometimes leaving her at a loss for meaning due to the antiquated Dutch terms for color. Just as humans are biological bodies composed of an entangled arrangement of internal molecules her plops of enriching colors bring the mind to center with the encroaching reality that we might not even be as important as specs of sand.

Back towards the entrance of the space, Hans Hoekstra’s blue barren figure finds himself forcibly hung upside down, trapped and almost hidden within a two dimensional form of his own irrational westernized way of thinking. And similar to the last chapter in a novel, or that final unnerving line in a poem, a room tucked in the back summons your presence towards a mixture of meticulously placed objects, off kilter lighting and carefully curated paintings in Pim Voorneman’s installation. Like a centripetal orbit through time, space and theory, visitors swivel around as if operating on a magnetic strip of constant and consistent observation.

The title of the exhibition comes from an anecdote in which the wife of Couperus in a guest address requests a blue room. Her husband would feel most at home in an entirely blue room. The intention of this exhibition was to create a place that does not look out of place in the here and now where simultaneously Couperus himself might have felt at home. After all, it was his thought that this composition has emerged. (Quartair)

After a voyage through this ‘blue’ room it seems that Louis Couperus, himself would most certainly feel at home in this exhibition with much to think about.

The show is on until December 4, Friday with a special tour on November 22 at 14:00 which will provide explanations to the work by the artists.

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