in this city there is a house on the canal / with roomy window frames letting in / rippling light as a soft glow / flooding paintings on the walls / and sometimes it rains against the panes
in this house / (I will not visit it) / there is a tiled kitchen / in the basement where the staircase ends / with coffee in a blue pot / and two old cats on the sill / keeping a slit eye out for birds / in the magnolia tree / so slicked by rain / for flowers to bud purple when spring comes / to the narrow overgrown back garden
the woman with the dark look / pouring coffee from the blue pot /
passed away here with flowers stacked high / around her bed
on the top floor in an attic room / filled by books / a man lies dying behind glasses over his eyes / and taps at a loss for words / the fish of an emaciated pale hand / on his chest which all purple / is a bruised magnolia
and sometimes it rains against the panes / and perhaps the cats ate the mole-bird of his tongue
in this house in the city there’s a room / of rippling shadows / as love is made when church bells / clarion a carillon over steeples and alleys / with a view through trickling raindrops on a canal / where burghers with cocky caps over the eye / and glasses of wine in their grip / sail a skiff flying the fluttering national colours / and sometimes the flag dips into the water
(I will not visit it)
Stevenson is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Breyten Breytenbach, featuring new paintings and drawings. Breyten is the artist's first solo show in Amsterdam in over two decades, the choice of title reflecting his 'first-name-basis' kinship with the city. Breytenbach describes the visit, a poem he penned in the 1990s, as central to this body of work. Translated here into English for the first time, the text chronicles his memory of Galerie Espace on the Keizersgracht, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1964, and went on to exhibit for nearly three decades.
‘The Enso’s came about quite spontaneously. I started to become very interested in the final gesture, the one gesture in paint that would sum up the particular moment completely. You cannot change it - you don’t do it two times, you do it in one go.
But then I quickly realised that, for me, just the Enso – in the original Japanese sense of the master or the painter sitting down on his knees with the ink and the paper, and in a moment really just doing one circle with perhaps a little poem next to it - that was really not going to be my thing. Although there is a little bit of that in there, I think.
In Enso 4, I actually have a little poem that goes with it – and I think that, for me, is the most interesting of them. It is not illustrating the Enso, it’s not illustrating that particular moment, and it is not illustrating the oriental painter, but somehow it is all in there somewhere.’
les feuilles, 2019
‘The leaves would be very much related to the place one is in. And it is probably autumn, and the leaves are falling, and the leaves have wonderful shapes and wonderful colours. And you start collecting them, and you start seeing if you can preserve them, and they start getting stuck to the paper directly.’
le soleil est le miroir de la lune, 2021
‘The first one is a portrait of Yolande. It’s like part of my vocabulary, part of the dictionary that comes again and again. She holds a number of smaller works that she has made in clay, including a buddha head which is separate from the main figure. Worked into this painting is another painting of mine that is in Amsterdam too, which is of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident painter. Although it was only really because his face intrigued me very much, I also like what he does and what he stands for, his provocative attitude …’
el pintor dice…, 2021
‘This painting started as a very straightforward depiction of Ai Weiwei, the provocative Chinese painter, who has made a few very strong statements about what he thinks he does and why he does it, and I quite like that.’
The Self as goldfish, 2021
‘This cock-like figure standing on his knees has been travelling with me for quite a few paintings - I’m not sure where he wants to end up.’
Breyten Breytenbach was born in 1939 in Bonnievale, South Africa, and lives and
works in Paris.
He studied at Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 1958, receiving honorary doctorate
in letters from the University of Western Cape in 1988, the University of KwaZulu-
Natal in 1994, and Ghent University in 2014. Breytenbach was also a visiting
professor at the University of Natal in 1995, Princeton University in 1996, and
the University of Cape Town in 2000. Awards and accolades include the Zbigniew
Herbert International Literary Award (2017); the Prix Max Jacob (2010); the
Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity (2010); the Hertzog Prize (1999; 2008);
and the Alan Paton Award for Literature (1994).
Solo exhibitions include The 81 ways of letting go a late self, Stevenson, Cape
Town, South Africa (2018) and UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa (2019);
Fragmented emergence of a late self - Breytenbach Sentrum, Wellington, South
Africa (2015); A Retrospective (Vingerverhale) - Artscape /Suidoosterfees, Cape
Town, South Africa (2013); Raakruimtes, A Retrospective - AkkuH, Hengelo, The
Netherlands (2009); Breytenbach Sentrum, Wellington, South Africa (2007);
Gorée, Gorée Institute, Dakar, Senegal (2004); Memory of Meaning - La Maison
Française, NYU, New York, USA (2002); Hong Kong Arts Centre, China (1997);
Retrospective - Verwey-hal, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands (1995);
Rétrospective Provisoire - Galerie de la Ville de Montreuil, Montreuil, Paris, France
(1987); and eight presentations with Galerie Espace, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Most recently, Breytenbach presented Skeursels, and Hokhokaai Fragmente an
exhibition of new artworks and a ‘folk book’ especially crafted for the Breytenbach
Center’s Woordmakersvallei project.
Prices exclude shipping and taxes
Breyten Breytenbach: Breyten