Exhilarated is how I feel when visiting Amsterdam; it’s the topos of my innermost nostalgia, the only place that keeps me focused on each and every present moment as I’m surrounded by people who make me feel like I’m home in a very special way that has nothing to do with my roots, yet on a different level of a purely profound connectedness. Even though I do see myself as local in a way, there are always new things to go out and explore in this endless, sleepless, always in motion city. On a grey Monday afternoon, my friend Danae and I were walking down the canal streets, talking our hearts out as we do every time we meet, looking for art spaces to visit and get inspiration from, in response to our own forceful -yet still quite precarious- urge for creativity through theatre and music respectively.
After wandering around for a little bit, with our expectations being quite low because – to my surprise- most art galleries in Amsterdam are closed on Mondays, we rang the bell of Kyas Art Salon. We got a response from the artist in residence, Rinus van Hall, who welcomed us in the building and showed us the way up to the gallery space on the first floor. The elegant staircase was very promising of what we were expecting to see; wine-red carpets and artworks on the walls made quite clear that the gallerist and artist herself, Kaoru Yamamoto, who we met at the studio’s entrance, has put a lot of effort in order to offer a high-standard aesthetic experience. The main space had a stunning canal view and at the back of the room there was a beautiful grand piano, as the space hosts various international events and gigs.
I took a close look at the portraits surrounding the place. The first thing I thought was that, even though the people depicted seemed very modern in terms of their clothes, hairstyles and appearance in general, they all had a very strong classical resonance. The artist told me that he mainly paints his family members but through his own lens; serious, sorrowful, trying to keep it together when in reality falling apart, illustrating emotions that people around them wouldn’t notice as they are well camouflaged. Being a third generation artist himself, I was startled to hear that he was not encouraged to go down the creative road himself at the slightest. Having studied architecture and despite his family’s strong objections, he decided to follow this bliss and pursue a career as an artist, teaching himself by re-creating classical paintings, which have very much influenced his technique. To him, switching from being an architect to being a painter was essentially a shift from loneliness amongst people having nothing in common with, to aloneness by choice in the process of re-discovering himself as an artist, facing his own fears and identifying his creative abilities.
Classical music appeared to be substantial to his paining; Mozart and Chopin for the peaceful moments, Vivaldi for the most energetic ones, ‘for the craziness’ in his own words. He talked to us about his battle with depression, Persephone as he named her, reflecting upon his own immersion and emergence out of the underworld of his illness. I noticed that in one of his self-portraits his eyes looked hauntingly blurry and apparently the inspiration behind it was the paradox of observing his own blindness in a recurring nightmare he’s been having for years. I couldn’t help but think of my own fear of losing the ability to speak or hear, as I can’t imagine my life without being able to sing or listen to music. It was very clear to me that his art was the most significant thing in his life as it’s turned out to be; his way of resisting anything that was planned for him without him, the amplifier of a strong statement about our freedom to make choices that feel right regardless of them being applauded by other people or not; about unveiling emotions that we keep in disguise when fighting with self-doubt and hopelessness.
It’s ironic that on the way to this art space, Danae and I were talking about these issues and our struggle with them in our daily lives. It seemed that Rinus had appeared out of nowhere to indicate that we are not alone in this; that life is a puzzle of intricate choices that we have to make and a reminder to stand our ground for what we believe we’re here for. A very fortunate encounter that was definitely one of the highlights of visiting my beloved Wonderdam!