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 is renowned for transforming ordinary snapshots into grandly baroque and surreal tableaux by a careful process of retouching and enlargement. Since his first solo show, in 1994, he has exhibited in venues such as the Tate Gallery, London, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, and the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut. He has been based in the United States since 1992.

Although Bremer has always been interested in photography, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he began to draw directly on the surface of photographs. He has been inspired in part by nineteenth century spirit photography, and fin de siècle Symbolists such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and painter Odilon Redon, but his methods partake of advanced photographic techniques. Often he will begin with a simple snapshot of friends or family or familiar places, and after enlarging it far beyond conventional dimensions, he will begin altering and embellishing the image with India ink and photographic dye.

He has often used the ink to produce fine patterns of lines reminiscent of cobwebs, or readings from seismographs. Photographic dyes also enable him to blur and mute some forms while accentuating others, and make some colors bloom while others recede into mysterious darkness. The result is an image that seems to literally vibrate with hidden consequence, as if the subject matter has sent cracks across the surface of the picture. Whilst Bremer’s choice of images inevitably grounds his work in his own biography, his imagery also makes reference to alchemy, art, and the occult, establishing unexpected connections between ordinary life, history, and the unconscious.

Sebastiaan Bremer lives and works in New York. He studied at the Vrije Academie, The Hague, and Skowhegan School of Art and Sculpture, Maine. He has published two major catalogs: Monkey Brain (2003), and Avila (2006). His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


ABOUT Erwin Olaf

Born in 1959 in Hilversum, The Netherlands
Lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Erwin Olaf is an internationally exhibiting artist whose diverse practice centers around society’s marginalized individuals, including women, 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, he will mount solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle München, Germany; the Suwon Museum of Art, Suwon, Korea, and will have his first solo exhibition at Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 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.