Exhibition

Theo van Baaren

13 March 2004 to 06 June 2004

Theo van Baaren's collages are governed by dreams and magic. Ambiguities and motifs such as ghost, spirit, eroticism and reflection link the collages to the Surrealistic graphics and painting of the 1930s and the staged photography and video clips of the 1980s. Van Baaren deliberately uses his collages to shock and to alienate. They furnish him with the opportunity to play with reality, to distort it, and thus generate uncertainty about this reality.

Theo van Baaren (1912-1989) was a versatile and talented man who became renowned as a theologian, collector of ethnographica, poet, and visual artist. He studied theology in Utrecht and moved in 1952 to Groningen, where he was a professor of Religious Studies until his retirement in 1980. In this period, he accumulated a large collection of art from exotic sources, which was exhibited in the Groninger Museum in 1962 and 1974. In 1978, he donated this collection to the 'Gerardus van der Leeuw' Ethnographic Museum in Groningen, which was discontinued in 2003. The collection of ethnographica is now stored in the University Museum.

As a visual artist, van Baaren was most influenced by Surrealism. He began to write poetry in around 1940 and, in conjunction with his wife, Gertude Pape, published the illegal magazine De Schone Zakdoek during the war years. A total of 23 issues appeared, each consisting of only one copy. Artist friends supplied short stories, poems, photographs, and collages for the magazine.

In this period, Van Baaren also began to create collages, in which he could express his fascination for the occult and the subconscious. Theo van Baaren's collages are governed by dreams and magic. Ambiguities and motifs such as ghost, spirit, eroticism and reflection link the collages to the Surrealistic graphics and painting of the 1930s and the staged photography and video clips of the 1980s. Van Baaren deliberately uses his collages to shock and to alienate. They furnish him with the opportunity to play with reality, to distort it, and thus generate uncertainty about this reality.

Van Baaren himself outlined it as follows: 'The majority of my collages are deliberately intended to shock or alienate. They may have only satirical intentions but they may also invade the domain of surrealism, with fundamentally disturbing objectives. To me, collages are also a way of playing with reality, thus causing uncertainty regarding this reality.'

A number of autonomous collages are presented here, along with four complete, loose-leaf booklets: What haunts there? The small book of ghosts (1976), Small supplement to Creation (1982), Twelve Nocturnes (1983), and Enigma Variations (1983). in 1990/91, the Groninger Museum received the works from the artist's legacy via mediation by Dick and Han Leutscher-Hazelhoff.