All this input was sometimes confusing to me, and especially the way of thinking in terms of ‘us – them’ often led to incomprehension and embarrassment regarding my family history. According to them, I didn’t understand: ‘those were different times’… Fortunately, these are also different times, today.
For the project #Siloewok Sawangan, I took my family album as a starting point. Siloewok Sawangan was the name of my grandfather’s company on Java in the former Dutch East Indies. He had an instruction book about the products, such as: cocoa, kapok, coffee, and rubber. The workers were also depicted in it.
I edited the photos from the family album with a new technique that I developed myself, inspired by iconoclasm. By scratching the photos and perforating them, I indirectly criticize the situation depicted. I also created collages and mobiles, in which I combined the photos with photos of Amsterdam monuments from the former Dutch East Indies, thus making visible a period that still lives in many families.
My themes are humanity, the vulnerability of man, and being a woman in this world. I look for the edges of life – they interest me. I have a fascination for the peculiarities of the human body and mind. In photo works, objects, collages and video, I investigate the body, the skin, and how they are covered up. For me, this covering up says a lot about identity, cultural background, but also about masking certain things. I use the body as raw material, as something to communicate with, and to evoke emotions, ideas, desires and fears. Much of my work is related to the skin or intended as skin. The work is ambivalent and somewhat autobiographical. I look for the beauty in imperfection: attracting and repelling.
At the exhibition Totok, artist Clementine Oomes (Hilversum 1970) shows poignant new work, entitled ‘Mama Saya’. It is inspired by her mother’s concentration camp past in Indonesia during World War II. Her mother spent three and a half years in captivity with her mother and her sister in a cell in the Aek Pamienke Jappenkamp (Japanese concentration camp) on Sumatra.
Oomes uses optical spatiality in her work. We see gaping and menacing voids pulling us into the depths. The freedom of Oomes’ intuitive visual language presents a stark contrast to the theme of this work: captivity. By means of optical effects, the artist draws us into her dream world. Suggestion plays a major role in her work. The gaping depth in which the viewer is trapped – is it a threatening, destructive depth… or rather an escape to paradise? Is this the road to freedom? By means of bright white color, Oomes succeeds in abstracting the theme of captivity and making it a universal value and reality that concerns us all.
The exhibition Totok gave Clementine Oomes the opportunity to create this work in total freedom, and to convert the pain of the past into an intuitive visual language. As a second-generation war victim, Oomes has personally experienced what this reality can do to people. “My mother had plunged from a fairy tale into a horrific reality. She managed to survive because she had made an armor around herself. She had to survive, but we, as children, had to survive too… later, together with her.”