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Frome artist commissioned by Amsterdam museum

FROME resident and felt artist Gladys Paulus has been commissioned by Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) in Amsterdam to produce new work for their new permanent exhibition Our Colonial Inheritance. 

Frome resident and felt artist Gladys Paulus rolling felt.

The major new exhibition, which opened last month and will show for a period of seven years, explores the ways in which the effects of the system of colonialism continues to have an impact on people, focussing specifically on former Dutch colonies such as Indonesia and in the Caribbean. Through a vast array of historical objects from their collection, visitors will be taken on a tour through history, peppered with personal stories and specially commissioned artworks made by artists who have a personal link to some of the subjects explored.

For the exhibition, Gladys, whose 2017 Frome solo show ‘Hinterland’ at Black Swan Arts first explored some of her ancestors’ traumatic history in the former Dutch East Indies through a series of Ancestral Healing Costumes made from wool, was asked to respond to the theme ‘Here I am at home’.

“I was first approached by the museum at the end of January,” explains Gladys.

“It came completely out of the blue, but I felt immediately connected to the remit. I grew up in the Netherlands but I’m of mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent. My grandparents and father fled the former Dutch East Indies (now the republic of Indonesia) in 1950, and together with some 400,000 others, ended up in the Netherlands.

“In my maternal line, there are complex historical ties to Indonesia too. As a mixed heritage (grand)daughter of refugee migrants, and an EU citizen resident here in the UK, I feel well placed to question notions of home and belonging, and it is a subject close to my heart.

“Working with the curatorial team at the museum has been brilliant. They are so passionate and knowledgeable, and they backed my proposal for the new work from the outset, even if its size, transport and other logistics were challenging. It’s not easy bringing wool (that may contain moths) into a museum full of important historic textiles, but it never seemed to faze them!

“The curator I’ve worked with most closely is a well-known authority on Indonesian history, and is of Dutch-Indonesian descent too. This has given our collaboration a very special edge. It feels good to be part of my community from afar in this way, and to be part of a conversation that takes a critical but nuanced approach to a dark, and very complex history. I’ve had virtual access to the museum’s collection of objects throughout, as well as a wealth of background information and informed opinion on offer, and this has all fed into the pieces I have made.

“All together, I have made three large works, incorporating some 40kg of sheep’s wool. As well as felting the wool, I have hand spun over 6km of yarn, and have incorporated some vintage Javanese batik fabrics. It’s been physically demanding, all consuming work, and I’m pretty tired right now, but I can’t wait to see the work in situ.”

Gladys will be travelling to Amsterdam in a few weeks’ time to install the work, and to attend the grand opening, which is expected to be attended by 1,500 people. She and her son Arran are currently working on a short film that explains some of the making and thinking process behind her new work.

For more information about Gladys and her work, visit the website: www.gladyspaulus.com And for more information about the exhibition in Amsterdam, visit the website: www.tropenmuseum.nl/en/whats-on/exhibitions/our-colonial-inheritance

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