Madelon Hooykaas at IBASHO Gallery in Antwerp

IBASHO is currently presenting a solo exhibition featuring the esteemed Dutch visual artist Madelon Hooykaas (1942): ‘Haiku, the Art of Observing.’

Over the past six decades, Hooykaas has dedicated herself to exploring new territories, cultures, aesthetics and experimenting with various forms of media. Her artistic journey has been shaped by contemplation, introspection and a profound interest in and connection with diverse cultures and beliefs. Furthermore, her strong convictions about the importance of nature and humanity's role in preserving it, as well as her engagement with Eastern philosophies that advocate for a balance between human experience and the natural world, form the foundation of her creative body of work.

From the outset of her career as a photographer in the 1960s, Hooykaas extensively traveled the world. She worked in Paris, then journeyed to New York where she served as an assistant for notable photographers such as Gary Winogrand, Philip Halsman, Bert Stern, and Joel Meyerowitz. Subsequently, her travels took her to California, where she encountered Zen Buddhism, eventually leading her to Japan in 1970, where she resided at the Mampuku-ji temple in Uji City near Kyoto. It was there that she documented daily life in the monastery through a photo diary titled “Zazen”, which was the first publication in the West to show photos of the daily life in a Buddhist monastery. From then on Hooykaas regarded her photography as a form of art.

Hooykaas expanded her artistic expression through the exploration of the emerging medium of video and her collaborative partnership with Scottish photographer and filmmaker Elsa Stansfield, which commenced in 1972. Together, they produced a wide array of video environments and installations on an international scale until Stansfield's untimely passing in 2004.

In the video installations created by Hooykaas/Stansfield the significance of photography is noteworthy, as during the early days of video art, it was unusual to incorporate still prints.

Artworks created by Hooykaas/Stansfield now reside in the collections of esteemed institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, MuHKA in Antwerp, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. Their body of work is regarded as exceptionally influential in Anglo-Dutch art following the Second World War.

The solo exhibition of Hooykaas at IBASHO revolves around her work ‘Haiku, the Art of the Present Moment’ (2007), which was the first major solo work Hooykaas made after Stansfield’s passing.

The work shows a series of haikus that the famous poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) wrote during his travels and posthumously published in ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ (1702). Inspired by Bashō’s poetic themes, Hooykaas composed the work from video sequences she had recorded during her travels in Japan and elsewhere, arranging them into four sections corresponding to the seasons. For each season a Bashō haiku appears and is recited in Japanese. The improvised music, performed on the shakuhachi by the Dutch musician and composer Ab Baars, has been woven into the fabric of the video, which celebrates the journey of life and the cycle of the seasons. The video is surrounded by prints on Hahnemühle bamboo paper from exquisite stills, chosen very carefully by Hooykaas. The prints contain a QR-code in red, resembling a Japanese stamp, with which the video can be watched.

The second part of the exhibition shows Hooykaas’ photographic shadow works that were created after she visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1983 and 1984. In the Peace Museum in Hiroshima she was struck by a stone staircase that a person had been sitting on when the atomic bomb was dropped. The bright light of the bomb had made the stone steps almost like light- sensitive photo paper. Only the shadow burned into the stone remains of this person. This was the beginning of Hooykaas’ fascination with shadows. ‘Without light there is no shadow. Without shadow there is no light.’

Some of the unique shadow works contain black acrylic paint that drips from the top of the image down, referring to the black rain that started falling directly after the explosion.

Hooykaas’ newest artist book ‘The Artist as Explorer’ includes stills from ‘Haiku, the Art of the Present Moment’ and is available in IBASHO’s gallery and online bookshop.

‘Haiku, the Art of Observing’ is on view until 5 May. ​
IBASHO Gallery
Tolstraat 67
2000 Antwerp

Selection of images


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