This weekend I visited the Terra Art Colony located just outside the town of Kikinda. Kikinda is a city of 45,000 near the Romanian border in the heart of the plains of Vojvodina.
The Terra Art Colony is a government-funded project that provides an amazing studio and property for the fine arts. It is a former brick and roof tile factory that closed down in the 1950′s. The “Banat” region of Vojvodina is a historical region in the agricultural plains of Hungary, Serbia, and Romania. The area was once a sea and has rich, red, clay soils that were perfect for bricks and terracotta ceramics. The factory is an amazing place for making a movie or hosting a Halloween party. The head artist-in-residence Jovan, showed us around the complex. There were several studios and exhibition areas. Most of the art was terracotta sculpture and there were many interesting pieces on display. Behind the main building, there was a long drying shed that used to be for the tiles. The kids loved running up and down the spooky aisles between the drying racks. It is very nice that the factory was preserved and is put to good use. I bought a small statue of a “Lala” which is a typical guy of the Banat region. He is a chubby guy because the food is so good in the “breadbasket” of Serbia and he is pictured on top of a pumpkin. This is because the Banat is so flat, that one only has to get on top of a pumpkin to see a long way.
The Summer Studio
The artists also had a pet dog that is a breed typical of the Banat region. The Puli is a working dog known for its athleticism in protecting sheep and other livestock. They have a thick, curly coat that is waterproof. They are usually black and their fur can be very long, almost like dreadlocks.
A Puli dog
I recommend visiting the town and especially the art colony complex. I am not sure what the opening hours of the gallery and if they give tours. My friend introduced us to the place and I think the artists came just for our group. That is one of the best features of Serbia is that it is not geared for tourists at all, so there are not many maps, brochures, advertising, etc. for the place and it felt like we discovered a secret place. I’ll try to get our visual art students to spend a day at the place.
On Monday Nadia gave her first art exhibition. She presented her recent work in a gallery along with the student-artists of the International School of Belgrade’s art classes. Nadia has been working with Maja , a local artist once a week this semester. She had several works and everyone liked the art. It was the first time I saw her paint in a realistic style. Her usual style of art is abstract and very colorful. Below are some photos from the evening.
Professor Maja and Nadia
One of Nadia's Works
The gallery is located in New Belgrade near Brankov’s Bridge, near the Sava River. The neighborhood is called Staro Sajmaste, which translates to Old Fairgrounds. It has a sad history, as the Germans used the fairgrounds as a concentration camp during World War II. In 1940, the area was uninhabited marsh land. The Nazis asked the Croatians, who had the left bank of the Sava under their control, to take Serbian Jewish prisoners. There is a small monument in an abandoned park near Poseydon Hall where the exhibition was held.
The Poseydon Hall
Yesterday I visited the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam. The museum holds a very large collection of paintings from the “Golden Age” of the Netherlands. This was when the Netherlands was the richest country on earth in the 1600′s. They did it through military conquests, battles with Spain and England, and through trading. Amsterdam was the New York of its time and the beautiful canals and buildings I saw over the weekend are from that era.
I was particularly interested in beside the master Rembrandt, paintings of people involved in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This was the publicly traded business (equivalent of today’s multinational corporation) that went all around the world buying and selling goods for incredible profits. Being an expatriate in the “Golden Age” of the USA, I can relate to the Dutch that lived in various parts of the world.
Pictured above is a Dutch family in Batavia which is today’s Indonesia. The painting is from 1672 and it is by Jacob Jansz Coeman. It features a portrait of Pieter Cnoll and his family posed in their tropical villa. You will notice the two servants in the far right. Cnoll was the head accountant of the VOC in Asia and his wife was the daughter of a VOC official and a Japanese courtesan (a high class prostitute). Sounds much like Thailand today. The two children are truly TCK (Third Culture Kids) and they seem to be well off. Of course, I am a teacher and not a businessman and not as well off as that family was, but I can totally relate to them.
The rest of the museum is absolutely fantastic. There are huge oil painting from the era depicting daily life three hundred plus years ago. It felt like I was there, the works are so realistic. The master Rembrandt’s paintings were very impressive. I have limited appreciation of art, so I judge works that I can’t personally do (realism) as great while abstract works that I could do as not so great. There were also lots of pieces from the naval battles with England and Spain that I particularly liked. I highly recommend visiting the museum when you go to Amsterdam.
Another VOC Merchant in Batavia