Distant Kinship / Verre Verwanten

Nan Mulder discovers long-held connections between the Netherlands and New Zealand in Distant Kinship / Verre Verwanten.

17 March, 2021
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Gea Karhof, Towards the Unknown, 2019, hand-coloured etching with gold leaf, 40 x 50 cm

Kathy Boyle, Towards an unknown place, intaglio, monoprint, stitch, 70 x 90 cm

Mark Graver, Amsterdam (The Shop on the Hill), digital pigment print, 50 x 90 cm

Nan Mulder, Towards Strangeness III, 2020, mezzotint, 32 x 42 cm

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas you began with when embarking on this exhibition project?

As a member of both a Dutch group of printmakers called Grafiekgroep Bergen and of the Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ), I wanted to organise an exhibition which brought together printmakers from both countries. Although New Zealand and the Netherlands may be geographically far apart, in crucial ways they share a long history. In 1642 the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to set eyes on the land of the long white cloud. It was this original encounter, which gave the country its name – Nieuw Zeeland being one of the Dutch provinces. Through immigration, studies and economic ties the two countries continued a kinship to the present day. This exhibition of prints aimed to focus and strengthen the cultural connections. Thus the idea of Distant Kinship / Verre Verwanten was born.

The project started in 2018. At that time Kathy Boyle was the chair of the PCANZ and she agreed to coordinate the NZ part of the show. The New Zealand embassy in the Netherlands and the Dutch embassy in New Zealand agreed to sponsor a catalogue and the openings. During one of the PCANZ summer schools Kathy and I wrote to Mainfreight to ask them to sponsor the transport of the works and they did. Thus a large box with Kiwi prints arrived in Museum Kranenburgh in the Netherlands in September 2019 and later that month the exhibition opened with a Haka, a film of all the artists and a speech by the ambassador.

In 2020 two boxes full of prints arrived in Auckland and after a delayed start due to Covid, the exhibition is now touring in New Zealand. It will be shown in the Waikato Museum from until 2 May, then, after a showing at the end of the summer in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, the Dutch Connection Centre in Foxton, the exhibition will end its tour at the Aratoi Wairarapa Museum in Hamilton in November / December. In 2023 one large box of Dutch work will make the long journey back across the world.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

Grafiekgroep Bergen consists of nine printmakers and I invited New Zealand printmakers with whom I had made connections during my annual visits to the country, to participate. Thus the 18 printmakers were selected. The PCANZ helped with the coordination of the galleries.

The New Zealand artists are: Jacqueline Aust, Kathy Boyle, Beth Charles, Mark Graver, Steve Lovett, Kim Lowe, Prue MacDougall, Catherine Macdonald and Carole Shepheard.

The Dutch artists: Elsbeth Cochius, Gea Karhof, Hans Kleinsman, Madeleine Leddy, Piet Lont, Nan Mulder, Jadranka Njegovan, José van Tubergen and Eric van der Wal.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham said that this marvelous exhibition acknowledges the diversity of printmaking traditions in both New Zealand and the Netherlands. “The works on display are wonderful examples of artistic creativity and combine contemporary and traditional styles,” she said. “This show brings together a fascinating selection of prints that illustrate the significant artistic connection between the two countries.”

The public has been incredible enthusiastic during the showings in the Netherlands and the first NZ showing in the Whangarei Art Museum in 2020. Many visitors returned more then once as the diversity and professionalism of the work not only made them aware of the rich possibilities of printmaking, but also initiated interesting discussions about the two countries.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

Key to the exhibited works is the one condition of the sponsorship of the embassies: the Dutch printmakers had to create a print about New Zealand and the Kiwi printmakers about the Netherlands.  Thus the artists looked again at that original trip by Abel Tasman, to the Dutch immigration in the 1950s, the flora and fauna, the geography, memories of past trips, as well as the Maori culture. The resulting eighteen prints are varied and show, often unexpected, aspects of both countries. In the catalogue, which accompanied the exhibition, the artists explain the inspiration for their ‘Distant Kinship print’.

Distant Kinship / Verre Verwanten is at Waikato Museum until 2 May. waikatomuseum.co.nz

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