Installation view, Gilleam Trapenberg, Galerie Ron Mandos. Photo by: Michele Margot.
Young, talented photographer Gilleam Trapenberg (1991, Curaçao) has a well-deserved stage in the exhibition 'Currents' at Galerie Ron Mandos. Since graduating from the Royal Academy The Hague in 2017, he has won several awards and exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, FOAM and the Fotomuseum Den Haag. Now he has been nominated for The Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize in London. His latest work, on display at Galerie Ron Mandos, is his most personal to date and deals with hybrid identities created on distant shores.
Not surprisingly, the exhibition is entitled 'Currents', referring to the two worlds Trapenberg lives between. Growing up in Curaçao, he left for the Netherlands at the age of 19 to create more opportunities for himself. He explores his life between different continents in his art practice. He regularly travels back to Sint Maarten and Curaçao to capture a more nuanced picture than the stereotype of holiday paradises or decayed islands.
Gilleam Trapenberg, 146 (New Suns), 2023, Galerie Ron Mandos
Immediately upon entering the gallery, Trapenberg's New Sunrise Series (2020-2023) attracts attention. The collage-like presentation evokes associations with the colourful houses in Willemstad. Those who dive into the narrative discover that these abstract, brightly coloured, planet-like photographs aim to do exactly this. Fascinated by the stereotypes surrounding the Caribbean as a holiday destination, the artist selects and arranges this wall of photographs as if they were abstracted billboards and advertisements. The artist realises that by this focus, he is also contributing to stereotyping about his homeland. By making this art, is Trapenberg guilty of the prejudices about the sunny holiday pictures of the islands? Or can he rather be considered a victim of this system? Is it the planets that fascinated him from childhood or the dots on the horizon he chased as a teenager when he decided to emigrate to the Netherlands? Regardless of the answer, the entire work presents an exciting composition of high-quality photography.
Gilleam Trapenberg, Amelia, 2023, Galerie Ron Mandos
This deconstruction of stereotypes that prevail around Caribbean islands is also recognisable in his latest series of portraits that hang scattered in the gallery. Like Amelia (2023), a powerful yet vulnerable portrait of a teenager on the beach. The clothes of the person portrayed flow subtly into the surroundings. The picture is reminiscent of Rineke Dijkstra's world-famous series of Beach Portraits (1992-1998). Like Dijkstra, Trapenberg captures the power of what is both uniquely personal and universal: love, uncertainty, dreams, determination, connection.
Gilleam Trapenberg, Kisha and LaDarayon, 2023, Galerie Ron Mandos
Thirty years later than Dijkstra, Trapenberg brings a different perspective. Regarding this, he says: "My work always starts from social issues, things I hear about Curaçao, stereotypes, stigmas. I really believe that now is the time to think about who is the maker and therefore the one telling the story." His personal connection to St Maarten and Curaçao gives his portraits a character of their own. Not without reason, the intimate portrait of Kisha and La Darayon (2023) has been selected for the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize 2023. The winner will be announced on 6 November.
Want to hear and see more? To conclude, Galerie Ron Mandos is hosting a Q&A between artist Gilleam Trapenberg and curator Britte Sloothaak on Sunday 29 October from 14:00-15:00. This is the last day of the exhibition. RSVP here.