A post by Peter Jordens: “Joan de Windt reports for NTR Caribisch Netwerk on a photography exhibition that connects an island in the North Sea to one in the Caribbean.”
[Schiermonnikoog is one of five Dutch islands in the North Sea, which shape the north coast of The Netherlands. Schiermonnikoog belongs to the mainland province of Friesland.] At present, a remarkable exhibition is being held there about an entirely different island: Gilleam Trapenberg’s Curaçao. “The exhibition is a love letter to a place I have a complex relationship with.”
Work by [photographer] Trapenberg is currently being projected onto a lighthouse in Schiermonnikoog. With [this exhibition called] ‘Nos pais’ [Our Country], he wants to [visually] take visitors on that wintery Dutch island to his tropical island of Curaçao. “The sense that I am trying to convey is that of a portal through which the viewer travels to Curaçao,” he explains. “Suddenly it opens and you find yourself driving around in Curaçao. You see very ordinary things: a palm tree, a rosary attached to a mirror above a car’s steering wheel, people on the beach; you get drawn in as an observer. You see people drinking beer and someone jumping off a cliff into the sea.”
“For me, the harsh sunlight [in the projected images] is key to the image that I have of Curaçao. The bright light reminds me of the raw side of the island, the dry, rough landscape, whereas the evening sky [of Schiermonnikoog after sunset] produces that idyllic island feeling. Curaçao has always been an island of paradoxes for me, which I try to capture in images.” His work is about his feelings about Curaçao that always overwhelm him. “Is this my Curacao? That’s how I feel when I am back in Curaçao after a long time abroad.”
Trapenberg (1991) was born in Curaçao. His work is often about his Curaçao, but also about Sint Maarten which he used to visit often as a child. At the age of nineteen he moved to The Hague. There he graduated as a photographer from the Royal Academy of the Visual Arts in 2017. Trapenberg has now been living in The Netherlands for eleven years. He still daydreams about his island. In his thoughts, Curaçao seems to become ever more romantic and greener. But when he goes back to the island in real life, it is quite different. “The exhibition is a love letter to a place I have a complex relationship with. Curaçao is my home, but for economic reasons I can’t live there, like so many other people who have moved to The Netherlands for a better life.”
Trapenberg is a professional photographer who is now also venturing into other forms of art. “But I’m not immediately going to call myself ‘multidisciplinary’. Ultimately, it’s all about the feeling that I want to convey.” In Schiermonnikoog, Trapenberg is using video for the first time. “I am making sound recordings for another project,” he adds. “You hear the sound of men playing dominoes, the clatter of the domino pieces, with a radio playing bachata music and a car honking in the background.”
Trapenberg expects that he will continue to capture Curaçao in images for the next ten years or so. “When I see photography of Curaçao by (European) Dutch and other people, it always gives me this feeling of ‘that’s not really my island.’ I have so many stories I want to tell. And I think that it’s important that we tell them.”
‘Nos pais’ is part of Hi-Lo Art, which has invited six artists to project their work onto the Zuidertoren [Southern Lighthouse] in Schiermonnikoog. Gilleam Trapenberg is the fourth artist in the sequence. His work is on display daily, immediately after sunset, until February 28, 2023.
Translated from the Dutch and annotated for clarity by Peter Jordens.
Follow Gilleam Trapenberg at https://www.instagram.com/gilleamtrapenberg and https://www.gilleamtrapenberg.com (under construction).
For more about the Trapenberg’s ‘Nos Pais’ exhibition and the Hi-Lo Art project, visit https://www.kunstbus.nl/twiets/Een+portaal+tussen+twee+eilanden%3A+van+Schiermonnikoog+naar+Cura%C3%A7ao.html and https://hi-lo-art.com/baken/schiermonnikoog (both in Dutch).