Wabi Subi, Sarracenia and Ivy
Sebastiaan Bremer & Erwin Olaf

 2 – 4 October 2020
Opening hours: daily 12 – 18 hrs.

For UNSEEN at the gallery, a weekend of contemporary photography in 25 Amsterdam-based galleries, Galerie Ron Mandos presents work by Sebastiaan Bremer and Erwin Olaf. The two internationally renowned photographers made a selection of landscapes and still-lives that show their fascination for nature.


Sebastiaan Bremer (NL, 1970) transforms ordinary snapshots into grandly baroque and surreal tableaux by a careful process of retouching and enlargement. On top of his pictures he produces fine patterns of lines reminiscent of cobwebs, or readings from seismographs. In two photographs entitled Wabi Subi, the artist creates a visualization of a dark starry sky or a deep-sea scene. The works function as a map, helping us to navigate and solving the mysteries of the universe.

A series of Tropicalia works refer to a Brazilian art movement uniting both the popular with the avant-garde and the traditional with the foreign. These works function as a microcosm of art history: a photograph of a wall in Brazil overgrown with tropical vines, a set of European landscapes and modernist squares — all in one. The vines in these pictures had grown bundled together on a ledge at eye level and had been pulled loose in places, revealing the white plaster underneath the painted wall. The vine on the ledge looked like a horizon, with parts of it growing upwards like trees, creating romantic and mysterious landscapes that could be painted by Monet or Rembrandt.

Erwin Olaf (NL, 1959) recently joined Galerie Ron Mandos and presented a new series titled April Fool 2020. For his upcoming solo exhibition at the gallery in Spring 2021, Olaf is working on a series about the grandeur of nature and man’s conceit. For Wabi Subi, Sarracenia and Ivy, the artist shows several still-lives from the series Fall (2008). These works evoke a strange feeling of distance and quietude. The tranquil still-lives with flowers presented in simple ceramic vases have an almost meditative effect on the viewer. The dried or cut flowers in the series Fall refer to the colors of autumn, but also to a fateful sense of demise. The spindly floral arrangements function as a sharp reminder of how quickly beauty fades.

About the more recent still-lives created in the period from 2015-2018, Olaf said, “I have been studying the connection between form and emotion. What does a still life mean to me when lines mix the beauty of flower, or when shapes and lines cross with round forms? I love the work of Mondrian, and I am fascinated by the way he could imbue his abstract paintings with emotions.”

ABOUT Sebastiaan Bremer

Sebastiaan Bremer’s artistic career spans across disciplines and media, but he has become particularly renowned for his ability to transform pre-existing images into ornate, dreamlike tableaux through a careful process of enlargement and intricate hand painting that results in completely unique works.

The use of found imagery as a basis to explore ideas about time and memory has long been central to Bremer’s practice, and in the late 1990s he began experimenting with drawing directly onto the surface of photographs. Initially working with snapshots of family members or familiar places, Bremer developed his signature technique of printing the pictures in an enlarged format—well beyond conventional dimensions—and then altering and embellishing the underlying scene with delicate patterns of dots and strokes using India ink and photographic dye, or applying splashes of paint.

Over the past decades, Bremer has used this approach to create a progression of distinct bodies of work, expanding the scope of his source materials from purely personal moments to an array of images that have captured his imagination or held significance in his life. These range from adaptations of Rembrandt etchings to Brassaï’s photographs of Picasso’s studio and Bill Brandt’s series of close-up images of his famous subjects’ eyes, as well as the vintage lithographic flower prints used in Bremer’s Bloemen series.

Whether starting from the work of an iconic artist or revisiting his own family albums, as in his series Veronica, 2018, silver gelatin prints he produced from long forgotten negatives of candid shots his father took of his mother in her mid thirties, Bremer’s choice of visual documents is rooted in his biography. Hints of his native Holland permeate his work, from his appreciation of the way light falls across a room reminiscent of a Vermeer interior to the exquisitely painted addition of a pointillist feather or flowers to a contemporary photograph that transports the viewer to the world of Dutch Old Master paintings. In engaging with images of others, he is constantly investigating his own memories and thoughts, weaving a dialogue between the underlying photograph and the marks he uses to transform but never completely obscure it, thus creating a physical representation of the confluence of our inner and outer lives.

Sebastiaan Bremer studied at the Vrije Academie, The Hague and Skowhegan School of Art and Sculpture, Maine. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been the subject of three major catalogs: Monkey Brain (2003), Avila (2006), and To Joy (2015), and has been exhibited in such venues as the Tate Gallery, London; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; The Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; and the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut. Bremer’s work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


ABOUT Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf was born in 1959 in Hilversum, The Netherlands
He lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Erwin Olaf is an internationally exhibiting artist whose diverse practice centers around society’s marginalized individuals, including people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019 Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 works from his oeuvre were added to the collection of the Rijksmuseum. Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum director, called Olaf “one of the most important photographers of the final quarter of the 20th century”.

In 2018, Olaf completed a triptych of monumental photographic and filmic tableaux portraying periods of seismic change in major world cities, and the citizens embraced and othered by their urban progress. Like much of his work, it is contextualized by complex race relations, the devastation of economic divisions, and the complications of sexuality. Olaf has maintained an activistic approach to equality throughout his 40-year career after starting out documenting pre-AIDS gay liberation in Amsterdam’s nightlife in the 1980s.

A bold and sometimes controversial approach has earned the artist a number of prestigious collaborations, from Vogue and Louis Vuitton, to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. He served as the official portrait artist for the Dutch royal family in 2017, and designed the national side of the euro coins for King Willem-Alexander in 2013. He has been awarded the Netherlands’ prestigious Johannes Vermeer Award, as well as Photographer of the Year at the International Color Awards, and Kunstbeeld magazine’s Dutch Artist of the Year.

Erwin Olaf has exhibited worldwide, including Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Málaga, Spain; Museu da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, Brazil; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile. In the spring of 2019, Olaf’s work was the subject of a double exhibition at Kunstmuseum The Hague and The Hague Museum of Photography, as well as a solo exhibition at the Shanghai Center of Photography. In 2021, Erwin Olaf had his first solo exhibition Im Wald at Galerie Ron Mandos and mounted a large survey exhibition at Kunsthalle München, Germany.

Olaf’s work is included in numerous private and public collections, such as the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum, both in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, United States; Art Progressive Collection, United States, and the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia.

Visit the artist’s website here.