The blinding joy of Pierre Guillaume’s art; An Intensity of Light in Java and Bali – Part II

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Misty Morning on the Lotus Pond. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

IO – Pierre Guillaime’s art is a celebra­tion of colour, light and most of all – life itself. The intensity of feeling in his paintings comes out so strongly at times that it is almost overwhelming. In Pierre’s painting “Misty Morning on the Lotus Pond” the viewer may be pardoned for thinking that he is looking at a sunset when in fact the vibrant colours are a sunrise con­suming a lotus pond in full bloom. The sunrise baths the pond in a deep red – animating and life giving. A pale mist between the lotuses and the temples in the distance adds a strangely fragile spiritual dimension to the picture in sharp contrast to the blood red focus on life. And in many ways that is Pierre Guillaume: a combination of life force and almost childlike trust in life which creates a certain spirituality.

Gentle morning light in Brightness in Jatiluhi Mountainside. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

“Brightness in Jatiluhi Mountain­side” with its soft hues is like a ben­ediction at the start of the day and is in strong contrast to the strife of “Golden Sawah in Jatiluhi”. “Golden Sawah in Jatiluhi” is almost violent in the intensity of its colours creat­ing an impassioned drama in harvest orange and gold. It represents “sore” or “the afternoon” preparing to slip away into the shadows of night. The two paintings seem almost to belong side by side following each other in the phases of a story. “Pagi dan sore” or morning and afternoon.

The afternoon play of light in Golden Sawah in Jatiluhi. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Pierre Guillaume is the nome de plume of the respected Dutch paint­er Peter Willemse who changed his name as he began to paint more out in the open and slowly found his style in Impressionism. Pierre now frequently paints and occasionally exhibits in Indonesia.

 

Stars reflecting on the water in Mystic Night on Lovina Beach. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

When looking at his own paintings Pierre had dif­ficulty pointing out which was his personal favourite as would no doubt be the case with most artists as it is rather akin to asking a mother which child is her favourite child. Neverthe­less, after some hesitation he pointed at “Mystic Night on Lovina Beach”. It is indeed a painting suggesting won­der and magic and its starlit night is again a lesson in trust. Here the child spirit in Pierre is clearly visi­ble. A child that still has the wonder and belief in magic and miracles of a small child at Christmas.

Although Pierre says that he ex­perimented and mastered many styles at first he ended up mostly painting in his studio in a figural and realistic style which proved success­ful in the Netherlands. The results were almost photographic in detail and one painting could take up to two months to produce. For a time Pierre also worked as an art restorer – apparently, something he was also very good at.

Then something began to change. In 2002 he left his studio and start­ed turning to Impressionism as well as painting outside “en plein air”. The style he used became freer and more natural. Another important thing happened: he made his first trip to Indonesia in 2003. It became the second great love of his life. He also found that his newly evolved style was exactly suited for paint­ing in Indonesia. “There is so much I want to express and with this style I can produce may be ten paintings in two months,” Pierre declared. “Be­fore painting I must have this excited feeling or I stop painting and look for something else to paint and here I have that feeling so much.”

In Twilight Return to the Village, a group of Balinese women take beauty in their stride. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Indonesia has always run like a red thread through Pierre Guillaume life. He remembers as a small child becoming totally fascinated with a book by a German man who owned both a circus as well as a zoo and who went to Indonesia to hunt wild animals such as komodo dragons and tigers. The pictures of the animals and the green jungle with all its trees mesmerized Pierre and he told himself that one day when he was older he would go to Indonesia.

Boys Bathing under Sunshine captures the joy of youth. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana

The second point of connection with Indonesia is that Pierre grew up in an apartment building with eight families two of whom were Dutch In­donesian Eurasians or Indos as they are known colloquially. “I played with the child of one of the Indonesian ten­ants who lived in the flat above ours, reminisced Pierre. “His father played with wayang figures and the smell of Indonesian food, especially terasi or fermented fish paste would waft down from their flat to ours. At first my mother wrinkled up her nose and grumbled about the smell but then she became friends with my friend’s mother and had meals there and learnt to cook Indonesian food herself and before you know it our own kitch­en was producing the same delicious aromas. My best friend Ruud was also an Indo and plenty of Ambonese lived around me. I fought with them and also played football with them.”

The third and probably most im­portant connection was when he met the first and foremost love of his life: designer Joyce de Gruiter. She is a designer, photographer, was co-own­er of an art gallery, gold gilder and designed and manufactured her own shoe collection known as “Shoes 2 Make U Happy”. Shoes are not to wear, but to admire! Pierre thought that the beautiful Eurasian lady who had so many admirers would never consider him but he was mistaken and this year marks their 40th wed­ding anniversary. “Pierre is a very sensitive and honest man. His life is an artist’s life – full of dreams and Joyce is the perfect wife for him.” says Didier Hamel the curator of Duta Fine Arts Gallery with a twinkle in his eyes. “It is the woman’s job to keep the family happy and it is a man’s job to keep the mother of the family hap­py – not always easy but in this case they are both very happy!”

Pierre Guillaume kisses his wife, Joyce at the opening of his exhibition watched by Didier Hamel and Ghea Panggabean’s twin daughters. (photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Although or perhaps because Joyce de Gruiter is an Indo it took her much longer to come to Indonesia. Both her parents were born in the Indies and only came to the Nether­lands after the War. “But they never spoke to me about it,” Joyce recount­ed. “You know the War was terrible for them and coming to Holland was not easy. All the people coming from Indonesia were really traumatized and the Dutch who had been through the horrors of the Second World War did not understand how much they too had suffered and had no sym­pathy for them. They used to say to them, ‘But you had the sun while we were reduced to eating tulip bulbs and the cat of the neighbours..’ I am proud of how they coped and I am so grateful to Peter because he was able to get my parents to open up and talk about their experiences in Indonesia. If it were not for him, I would never have heard their stories.”

Pierre spoke about his arrival in Indonesia for the first time fifteen years ago. “As I stepped out of the plane there was already sort of a magic emanating just from the scent and sounds around me. I had flown for seventeen hours and was tired so my friend and I immediately took a taxi to Ubud. It was pouring with rain and everything was grey and wet when we suddenly heard a gamelan and a colourful Balinese procession stepped out of the grey. It was such a surrealistic image. I was entranced. Later I went down to the grocery shop to make a phone call to Holland and left my money, credit cards etcetera there by mistake. I did not realize it and was sitting on the verandah en­joying the evening air when suddenly a group of Balinese came down the road headed towards me laughing and scolding and bringing me my money back.”

Pierre has not looked back and it is in Indonesia especially Bali that he seems to have consolidated his art and truly found the style that expresses his spirit and creativity best. In this he says that he has been influenced by Bastida Sorolla from Spain, Anders Zorn of Sweden and the Belgian painter Adrian Le Mayeur de Merprès of Bali. In his exhibition is a painting of Le Mayeur’s wife and muse, Ni Polok. The painting is in homage to Le Mayeur. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)

An exhibition of Pierre Guillaume’s work is on display at the Duta Fine Arts Gallery in Jalan Kemang Utara no 55A, Kemang, Jakarta Selatan un­til the 23rd of December 2018.