Simon van der Sluijs
It has been 8 years since I last exhibited (also in Little River Gallery). The 2010 and 2011 quakes and the aftermath of a broken life living in a broken house wiped my creative drives. Although with the theatre company I partly owned in those days we did create a new show, and successfully toured it through the country, I could not bring myself to create work to exhibit. (www.simonvandersluijs.com shows my current portfolio incl images of theatre work)
However, a couple of years ago I started playing around again with some mixed media, just quietly sitting at my dining room table and slowly an idea began to form for a new project. I thought it was good to look inside myself and look back and find ways to visualise what I saw. I have always been fascinated by trying to visualise human nature, who are we, what drives us, what moves us, and my personal experiences were more than enough to explore. Then probably only last year the plan of creating a trilogy exhibition emerged. A trilogy because there was too much to tell for one show and to allow myself to create a deeper narrative in a way that the images would be more universal and existential rather than being just about me.
I chose ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ as the title of the trilogy because I feel that it best represents my work and the person I am. The parts of the trilogy are: 1: Identity (Aug 2018), 2: Dissectum ( April 2019) and 3: Lost and found (November 2019)
The title of this trilogy of exhibitions is taken from a book published in 1621 in Britain by Robert Burton. Although presented as a medical textbook, the book is much more than that; it is a work of literature of its own kind, and a philosophical reflection on the state of being melancholic. Burton defines melancholy as follows: …Melancholy is either in nature or in habit. In nature, it is that transitory melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or distress of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dulness, heaviness and aggravation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, happiness, joy, delight, causing forwardness in us, or a dislike…
Part 1 is about Identity because to me it is the source of melancholy and so that is where the trilogy needs to start. It shows drawings, paintings and small objects.
A person’s identity is shaped by many different aspects. Culture, gender, family and friends, personal interests, hobbies, pets and surrounding environments are all factors that help shape our identity. Psychological identity relates to self-image (one’s mental model of oneself), self-esteem, and individuality.
Generally the work on show deals with the desire to belong, to be allowed to be through confirmation of our fellow beings, but also getting damaged in the process (‘the nose bleed paintings’ with the nosebleed here being a metaphor for inner pain although it is also regarded as a metaphor for being aroused – the title of the paintings ‘Be still now’ can be applied to both), with trying to find who we are and exposing how cruel we can be (‘Happy Birthday’ painting).