Brigitte Wawoe: “A work of art is not only a beautiful possession, but also a good companion”.
by Josée Thissen-Rojer
The duo exhibition ‘Symbiosis’ is on display at Landhuis Bloemhof until April 23, 2022. The sculptures in the exhibition originate from, as they describe it themselves, a symbiotic collaboration between the artists Brigitte Wawoe and Angel Luis de la Rosa. Hence the title ‘Symbiosis’.
Brigitte Wawoe-Ziegler (1939) lives in the Netherlands but every year she spends a few months in Curaçao and works in her studio at the Mijnmaatschappij, at the foot of the Tafelberg (Curacao’s table-top mountain). Brigitte is married to Gilbert Wawoe from Curaçao, and from 1967 to 1978 they lived with their family in Curaçao. During this period Brigitte discovered the stones of the Tafelberg. Actually, Brigitte is the first artist who started using this special stone to make sculptures.
Angel Luis de la Rosa Gonzáles (1971) is a woodworker and had his third solo exhibition at Gallery Alma Blou in November 2021, with sculptures inspired by the female body. For 7 years he has been assisting Brigitte in her studio. Through years of collaboration, Angel’s influence on her work became more and more significant, and because of this, Brigitte came up with the idea of having an exhibition of sculptures they would create together, as two equals.
A good example of their collaboration is the 53 cm high ‘Warawara’ (Crested caracara), named after the bird of prey depicted. One side is soft and round, while the other has sharp angles and surfaces. Angel prefers graceful lines, but for Brigitte, the Wara Wara (crested caracara) is a tough bird of prey. By introducing the hard lines at the beak and wing, the work brings out the image of the Wara Wara better. It is a work of art that looks beautiful from all sides. The difference in vision of the artists first creates a tension, but then flows beautifully together.
An absolute eye-catcher in the exhibition is ‘Owl’, an owl staring at the visitor with large eyes and one outspread wing. With this sculpture, too, the artists had to blend their separate artistic views. Initially, Brigitte saw an angelic form in it, but Angel convinced her to bring out the form of the owl with the outspread wing. The single, outspread wing gives the work a dynamism not previously seen in Brigitte’s stone owl figures.
The collaboration was new for both of them, but Brigitte enjoyed it very much and she didn’t mind the confrontations, because she sees it all as part of the process. In the end, it is the stone that determines everything. The sculptor can only bring out what the stone has in it. Angel has a tendency toward organic forms and Brigitte prefers to work abstract. They have succeeded in blending their individual views by cautiously discussing every step and creative decision.
One sculpture in the exhibition was not made from the stone of the Tafelberg, but from a volcanic stone, and that is the dark-colored “Torso II”. Brigitte immediately saw the form of a torso in the rough stone. Together they accentuated the shapes she saw, and with just a few broad lines, the image was brought out.
Large works on paper are displayed on the walls of the exhibition hall, created by the exhibitors individually. Brigitte’s works on paper are inspired by a Japanese technique where an image is created with one stroke of the brush. Angel’s works on paper are executed in the watercolor technique. In the garden, at the entrance of Bloemhof, there are a few works of art made by the duo from old machine parts, also a beloved technique of the versatile Brigitte. ‘Palabrua’ (Owl) hangs in the Kenepa-tree. The work has a diameter of 150 cm. At Brigitte’s exhibitions, it is often the works in iron and metal where she shows a different, much more playful approach. Despite the collaboration, that is also the case this time. The huge toothed disk, with various symbols on it referring to the essence of the owl, is bold and has humorous undertones.
The Symbiosis vernissage, on March 12, 2022, was certainly successful. Both artists are great crowd pleasers and their work is loved. Brigitte experiences Bloemhof as a very nice stage to show her work. For an artist, it is important to have a good exhibition space. Bloemhof focuses besides visual arts also on film, literature, and music. Visitors of those events also take a look at the exhibition, and that extra exposure is only good for exhibitors.
Brigitte exhibits very regularly in Curaçao. She invariably manages to come up with a new and surprising concept with which she continues to captivate her audience. At her solo in 2016 ‘Cause & Effect… ongoing’, she exhibited colorful paintings and collages of her own hand in addition to a large number of stone and bronze sculptures. In 2009 she had a duo exhibition with painter Ukki Ukleya, which was opened by Jacqueline Römer-De Vreese. This year in ‘Symbiosis’ she comes up with the special collaboration with Angel.
The stones of the Tafelberg have a great attraction for Brigitte. As a sculptor, Brigitte has a special relationship with stone. She recognizes it as a living being, with its own soul. Brigitte explains that a stone is not just there, but comes into being and grows very slowly. In the layered stones of Table Mountain, this growth is clearly visible in the structure. If a stone appeals to her, she can carve it and turn it into a beautiful work of art.
When Brigitte is at work, she puts her heart and soul into it. Being a successful artist all these years feels like grace to her. There is an emotion in every object she makes. In this series, which she designed together with Angel, she experienced it even more strongly. By working so closely together, you are not only in each other’s proximity, but you also become very close with each other.
Since her very first solo exhibition, which took place in Curaçao in the 1960s, until now, Brigitte has undergone an enormous development. At the art academy in Germany, she was taught all disciplines, and thus learned all facets of sculpture. But it was only during her first stay in Curaçao, when she came into contact with the local stone, that she truly embraced sculpting.
Brigitte discovered the local stone by chance. She was in a garden where the borders around the plants and trees were made with stones from the Tafelberg. When the garden was being watered Brigitte saw the stones become wet and change color. This made the beautiful structure visible. When Brigitte saw that splendor of color, she was immediately intrigued to know what kind of stone it was and where it came from. And now, 55 years later, she is still under the spell of this special stone.
In August Brigitte turns 83 and after all these years she still likes the artistic climate in Curaçao. Brigitte notes that people in Curaçao love music, and three-dimensional works of art. Moreover, Curaçao people are very proud of the stones of ‘their mountain’ and appreciate that Brigitte has been working on them for so long. “People in Curaçao buy my work because they really like it.”
Brigitte herself also regularly buys art from fellow artists. If a work appeals to her, she buys it. “In this, I am no different from my own customers,” she says with a smile. “Art is about wonder, beauty, and contrast,” Brigitte states. “Actually, in every work of art, there is life itself contained. Therefore, a work of art is not only a beautiful possession but also a good companion.”
Brigitte points out that the attraction of stones to humans is as old as mankind itself. She is referring to the stone fertility goddess statues from prehistoric times. The fact that she dedicates her life to art is quite natural for her: “In art, there is everything that man needs,” Brigitte says with conviction. She still works every day in her studio and for as long as she can, she will go to the mountain every day.
Previously published in Amigoe, Saturday, April 16, 2022. Photographs by Ken Wong. This text, in whole or part, may only be reproduced with reference to the author and source: Curaçao Art®️, www.curacao-art.com. Copyright of the artworks remains the property of the artist.