Rinella Alfonso, Philipp Gufler and Hend Samir are the artists who received the Royal Prize for Free Painting 2021 from King Willem-Alexander on Wednesday afternoon. This prize is awarded annually to promising young artists. With their surreal landscapes, screen-printed mirrors and an abstract fusion of Western and Middle Eastern visual traditions, the three artists show, according to the jury report, how versatile painting is today.
15 nominees were chosen from 566 artists, doubling the number of applications compared to 2019. The winners each receive 9,000 euros, their work is exhibited in the stoic galleries of the Palace together with the exuberant and penetrating pieces of the other nominees. the dam.
Rinella Alfonso’s (1995) strong flowing movements and full dark red and blue tones stand out in her oil paintings Slith-her-in on Upward Splash and Peek. In the accompanying exhibition catalog she tells how the island of Curaçao automatically creates art for you, with fantastic accidental installations, such as an old plastic chair that has been under a tree for years and is eaten by moss and vegetation. Philipp Gufler (1989) uses very old, historical pigments for his serigraphs on angular mirrors, in response to the commercial charge of the rainbow flag. Hend Samirs (1986) acrylic painting titled The Playground shows finely painted faces of children in addition to the confluence of objects and the environment on the canvas.
The 2021 class touches on a long tradition in several ways. The incentive prize was established in 1871 by King William III and celebrates its 150th year this year with the simultaneous exhibition Border explorers. The field of tension between the established order and outsiders is central to this anniversary exhibition. Curators Mirjam Westen and Richard Kofi selected existing works by previous winners and nominees for the exhibition. These can now be found in various rooms of the palace.
Also read: Prize for Free Painting 2020 to Janne Schipper, Charlott Weise and Dan Zhu
Curator Kofi finds it striking that the previous prize winners have not subsequently adapted to expectations that may be aroused after such a prize. “They have continued to go their own way and have gone through their own development, they have been accepted with their work while, for example, it deviates very much from the norm due to the subject and use of color. It is groundbreaking, even crosses borders.”
He sees the latter in, for example, Isabel Cordeiro’s robot, which moves through the quiet Room of the Grand Masters, wrapped in a brightly colored patchwork quilt. But also Sara Sejin Chang’s asymmetric imperialist data server installation in the Court of Auditors and Suzan Drummen’s glittering floor installation in the Royal Apartment.
Fictional Royal Gathering
On the oil painting The Family by Helen Verhoeven, the patterns of the carpet and wallpaper from the Throne Room are included on the canvas. She painted a fictional gathering of family members from the past and present of the Oranges, with their gaze fixed on the viewer on a 425 cm wide canvas. It is the most explicit reference to the royal family in the exhibition.
In the Mayor’s Chamber, Natasja Kensmil also harks back to the strong style conventions of the state portrait with the painting Ferdinand II and Isabella I. In the audio tour, curator Kofi talks to Kensmil and describes that she recognizes in herself the phenomenon of only showing your beautiful side in portraits. She changed that by giving the aristocrats who were behind the establishment of the Inquisition and the beginning of colonial expansion in Spain a digested face in her work.
In both the current prize winners and the overview of the 150 years Royal Prize for Free Painting, Kofi notices that artists make powerful choices: „Actually you say, I want to join that canon. I think this should be recognized. It wasn’t nothing to participate in. They did it, and now they are here at this exhibition.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 15, 2021