Art Rotterdam week – Open Ateliers

The Kunstenaarscollectief de Kerk is made up of nine artists/members Eli Zegers, Ferry Chrispijn, Karin Voogd, Kimon Kirligitsis, Lea von Terzi, Pim Muis, Yvette de Wit, Yvonne Bronner and Ward Groutars. The collective has rented a Catholic church which is loosely divided into its members’ ateliers; it is used as a workspace but also a platform through which they show their work to the public. During Art Rotterdam / Open Ateliers the collective will open the church’s door to the public, show them where they work, and explain to them the process of creating. In addition, the collective has built an exhibition in the middle of the church, presenting their most recent work.

I got the chance to meet some members of the collective and see the exhibition in person before it opens for the public on the 21st and 22nd of April. Kimon Kirligitsis, my guide in this journey, is a member of the collective and the curator of this current small-scale exhibition. As he explains, opening their space and inviting people to get to know them and their work is more important than the exhibition itself.

The public will enter from the main entrance and they will immediately be encountered with a sitting space surrounded by plants. Straight ahead you see Yvette de Wit’s, the photographer of the group, ‘island’ as Kirligitsis calls it. Moving towards the church’s main space, you see their ateliers on your left and right. The different ateliers are open for the public to explore. They give the feeling of personal spaces in which you can find from painting tools to storing boxes, all together in an artistic ‘mess’. 

Surrounded by the ateliers from both sides, three open walls are standing in the middle of the room. That is the exhibition space. Paintings are hanging on these walls but no descriptions are visible.

As Kirligitsis argues, people can focus on the artworks themselves and the artists will happily give them more information on them in person.

The first piece I notice on the front of the first wall is a piece by Kimon Kirligitsis’ series ‘Twisted image’. The cut out of a religious figure is immediately obvious, it is a saint whose name may not be of much importance. What is most interesting about this painting is its reference to Byzantine iconography mixed with a contemporary edge created by the figure’s form and intense colors.  Kirligitsis is trained in iconography while he also did an apprenticeship in a Greek monastery with a nun. Here the method and technique learned in the monastery are reinvented in the contemporary setting. Living in a small community in Greece, Kirligitsis was often confronted with images of saints and realized how much religion affects culture and society as a whole. Kirligitsis’ artistic spectrum is not limited to religious painting, and as we see in the back of the wall there is a selection of an ongoing series of small-format paintings, representations of daily life, objects to which many of us can relate.

In the back of the second wall is hanging Eli Zegers’ painting. His work is abstract, focusing on spontaneous, even accidental, creation. His atelier is right behind the wall which makes a great connection and offers the visitor a complete image. The work shown has reminiscences of ‘accidental’ marks on the canvas which were further enriched by the artist. Kirligitsis explained that Zegers questions what is a painting and researches how it comes to be. At the back of the third wall 4 paintings are placed in a very pleasant arrangement. It is Zegers’ ‘Parergon series’. The first piece I notice is ‘#2 – Piëta’ which stands next to the evangelists from the same series. It is the abstract representation of the Pietà in intense dripping colors, Zeger’s interpretation of a subject that has marked art history.

On the third wall in the front, we see the small-scale paintings of Ferry Chrispijn whom Kirligitsis portrays as the ‘soul’ of the collective. The chancel of the church is transformed into his atelier, a cozy space that the artist himself considers ‘a work of art’ and which he is excited to show to the visitors. I strongly recommend not to miss visiting his atelier and talking to Ferry about his art, the church, and inspiration in life. He is a charismatic speaker who creates impressions of sunsets, influenced by Dutch masters, from a more ‘naïve’ point of view.

Lastly, in the middle wall, we see the imposing large-scale paintings of Lea von Terzi. Lea is an art student with a mature gaze in abstraction. We surely agreed on that with Kirligitsis. Standing in front of her two pieces, one painted in darker tones and the other one in lighter tones offers the eye a captivating contradiction.  Von Terzi’s work is not limited to paintings and as the public will have the chance to see in her atelier it consists of several striking sculptures. You will surely feel the power and energy coming through her work.

Overall, the combination of the artworks hanging on the wall is working very nicely, despite the difference in the subject, methods, and styles. Moreover, the grandiose setting of the church and the feeling it conveys makes this exhibition even more worth visiting. But apart from the setting, visitors will be able to witness what the next generation of Rotterdam artists have to offer which is on its own very exciting.   Gresa Mechili    18th May 2022