This series is a poignant tribute to Trapenberg’s ongoing journey of self-discovery and creative growth. It unfolds as a narrative woven with profound symbolism and introspection, each piece telling a story of transformation and adaptation. In this series, the artist invites viewers to join him; to glimpse through his lens and experience the artist’s own oscillating gaze, shaped by the influences of different places and the powerful currents of identity.
Gilleam Trapenberg (CW, 1991) embarked on a deeply personal and introspective artistic journey with his latest series, Currents. At the age of nineteen, he left his Caribbean homeland for the Netherlands, and his art has since become a skillful navigation of the interplay between his Caribbean upbringing and the complexities of the region.
In Currents, Trapenberg artfully explores his evolving relationship with Curaçao, using abstract art and collages to delve into themes of identity, memory, and the enduring connection to one’s roots in a rapidly changing world.
Chamo, 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 100 x 80 cm
Kisha and LaDarayon, 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 100 x 80 cm
Kant’i Laman No 5, 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 125 x 100 cm
One of the recurring motifs in Currents that stands out is the portrayal of young Curaçaoans, their eyes fixed on the vast sea, lost in its endless horizons. This is more than just a visual; it encapsulates the eternal allure of distant shores and dreams yet unfulfilled.
These figures are emblematic of the broader Caribbean diaspora, many of whom often find themselves adrift between the worlds of their heritage and their present, gazing wistfully out to sea and contemplating the pull of faraway places against the tug of home.
Each piece tells a story, often of transformation, adaptation, and the search for belonging.
Kant'i Laman No 4, 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 125 x 100 cm
As we move deeper into Currents, Trapenberg shifts his storytelling to address the everyday intricacies of life and society in Curaçao. He casts a reflective gaze on the island’s collective yearning for a utopian paradise—a desire juxtaposed sharply against post-colonial experiences and the increasing commercialization of the Caribbean region.
His works challenge the viewer, asking them to see beyond the stereotypical images and symbols of the Antilles that so often dominate the social media feeds and perceptions of Western society.
In his New Suns series, which he started in 2020, Trapenberg uses the Caribbean sun as a symbol of exoticism and examines how this stereotype establishes the notion of a Caribbean paradise on Earth. He questions whether the residents of Curaçao share this same idea. Through New Suns, Trapenberg visualizes his ongoing quest to capture the perfect image of the Caribbean sun.
Trapenberg’s creative process for New Suns began almost by chance. He initially started researching the colors and tones associated with Caribbean image culture, and this research became an integral part of the project. Instead of intentionally photographing suns, he would point his camera at the sun when finishing a roll of medium-format film, curious about the results. This spontaneous approach is typical of his work as an image maker and is influenced by the physical and psychological distance he feels from his home island, Curaçao.
103 (New Suns), 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 37,5 x 30 cm
115 (New Suns), 2023 | Fine art inkjet print | 37,5 x 30 cm
The romanticism in his gaze towards the Caribbean and the idealized image of the Caribbean sun come from this sense of distance. The suns he photographs are documented during his visits to Curaçao, and the creative process involves digital manipulation to adjust colors and hues in the negatives.
About the Artist
Gilleam Trapenberg (1991, Willemstad, Curaçao) moved to the Netherlands at the age of nineteen and graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in 2017. He participated in multiple group exhibitions, such as In The Presence of Absence at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2020). In 2017 he published his first photo book Big Papi and in 2018 he was one of the nominees for the Foam Paul Huf Award. He’s the fourth recipient of the Florentine Riem Vis grant (2020). His first solo exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam opened in 2021. Gilleam Trapenberg lives and works in Amsterdam.Go to artist page