A painting featuring the iconic CCTV headquarters in Beijing is titled Morning in the May 1964. High-rises along the Bund in Shanghai goes by the name Wednesday 12th of April 1972, around 6:oo p.m. In Fire Bird, streams of whiteness pass through a giant window of a modern, bustling hall, as if a shining cascade.
Ironically, the themes of these paintings are not their urban landscape but light and space. A number of abstract features of lines, strokes and triangles appear seemingly at random over the painted metropolises, signifying what the artist conceives as the space between light.
They are all by Dutch painter Wessel Huisman, who often names his works with dates that have nothing to do with the time they were made, but with the origin of the memory that light triggers. Huisman's latest exhibition in Shanghai, Travel Through Light, continues his journey to record specific atmospheres according to the changes of light. The exhibition runs till September 30 at Gallery Bund 22.
"Light can give you back your history, not only as a thought or memory but as a vital and intense experience; it strongly influences the sentiment with which you experience your reality," Huisman once explained to BLOUINARTINFO.
His works follow the grand Dutch tradition of light painting, whose ancestors include the names of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. For almost 30 years, he has been painting an archive of light history. It might or might not be a coincidence, given the artist's academic background: he graduated with honors from the Radboud University in Nijmegen and also attended the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Arnhem.
He lives and works in Dieren, the Netherlands, and has exhibited in the US, Italy, and China among many other countries.
Dutch painter Wessel Huisman
Giving light movement
He believes that King Crimson's atmospheric music shares his interpretation of the interplay between light and space, and even named some of his works after the band's songs, for example "Exiles" and "Night Watch."
"Their music is on one hand very moody, so there's a lot of feeling in it, and at the same time it is very structured. The drummer is very skilled. The bass player has a very pronounced way of playing. The guitarist has a sometimes nervous way of playing," he said.
"For me it has a lot of space and light inside. Music can trigger your memory and bring images from your past, in the same way that I try to pose with light and dark, to trigger your imagination to remember and create spatial images in your head which you can't really describe," Huisman told the Global Times at the exhibition opening.
Metropolis might be a leitmotif, but at times the artist depicts nature and a somewhat bucolic life. One of his exhibits, Jour de Fete 1961, depicts a merry-go-round on a lawn under a tree and amid clusters of white dots resembling blooming flowers. Triangles of not just white, but green, yellow and red, spread across the dreamy picture.
Outspoken colors are also a common occurrence in Huisman's works. He is known for painting his subjects all in tones of grey, black and white. He believes they help specify "the atmosphere of the light," which gives him possibility to give light even more movement.
A painting by Huisman
A painting by Huisman Photos: Courtesy of Gallery Bund 22