1 Oct – 21 Nov 2021
Pris Roos renders her muses in oil paints and oil pastels, at ease in their surroundings, but also empowered in their own environment: the street. The artist celebrates the details of her subjects’ self-expression, For Commune, Pris Roos wields the power of representation.
The subjects speak for themselves but are embellished by a hazy, colourful impressionism that recalls the informality of street photography. The subject matter varies from the personal close-ups of two beaming aunties posing for a portrait or a group of friends hanging out at a storefront, to the political: an anti-police violence protest, paying tribute to George Floyd and Mitch Henriquez.
The works shown in Commune have come a long way from the more traditional portraiture with which Pris Roos began at the Royal Academy of Art, where she sketched teachers and her fellow students. The shift happened when she found inspiration closer to home: the toko of her parents, a space of constant movement and a crossroads of cultures. Customers become friends, the toko providing the tastes of “home” not only from Pris’s own Indonesian heritage but also from Vietnam, China, Suriname and the ABC islands. “It is where I grew up, where I have lived. I am representing my own environment.”
In representing her environment, Pris went from the faces in the toko to the faces of the neighbourhood and from the neighbourhood to the city. Her time as city artist of Rotterdam trained her eyes, scanning the street for the figures that characterized the community. From her window, she would observe the bakery and the barbershop in her street and identify her kin. This would lay the foundation for the scenes of this exhibition.
Commune represents the diversity of the Netherlands and brings this as close to the viewer as possible, reminding us that it is not something abstract or external to us. “I may be painting my neighbourhood but it could just as well be the bakery down your own street. These places are crucial to any city, in any street: you need them too. So, they are a part of you too.”