Leiden University Paintings

 

‘Permanent Transience’ – Seven oil paintings on linen for the Faculty of Humanities

Leiden, a university city since 1575, has over the centuries seen many a scholar moving through its beautiful, historic landscape. Some of their names are notable and permanently displayed, while memories of others, long forgotten, remain in the very fabric of our daily lives.

The seven paintings in this series were painted for a lecturing space in the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University. Although unified in format and size, the paintings each has a unique otherness, not only in the different monuments and moving students depicted, but also in the application and substance of the paint.

The four paintings on the back wall are each hung in one of the arched floods cast by the overhead lights, echoing the architectural shapes of  historical landmarks depicted in each painting– the Hortus Botanicus, the Rembrandt Brug, the Morspoort and the Doelenpoort. The familiar white grid of Leiden Station runs subtly through two of the paintings, subconsciously and visually strengthening connections. On closer view the allusive, recognisable patterns which appear and disappear from different angles in the backgrounds, contribute to the notion of transience.

Depicted in the three paintings on the side wall are modern-day students walking through the vast interior spaces of the monumental St Pieterskerk. The history of the church goes back to the 12th century and the church has through the years been a central meeting place for people from different backgrounds.  Leiden University has an annual Open Day Exhibition in the church and generations of students have written their exams in this beautiful space. In the painting on the left and the one on the right, shimmering gold patterns stretch over the whole surface and seem to appear and disappear as one moves in front of it. These patterns mirror those in the glass and lead windows of the nearby Academy Building. The abstract, oversize blossoms in the middle painting are reminders of the magnificent trees outside the church which bring joy to the many passers by on cold Spring mornings.

The seven paintings, side, by side, each with a historic setting and a moving, central student figure become like a theatrical scene of playful interaction between the lasting and fleeting, the old and new, the seen and unseen and of history and the future.

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