It is said the eyes are the windows to the soul but Surinamese artist, George Struikelblok bares his soul on his canvas.
Struikelblok boldly told his truth at a private viewing of his exhibition UnSeen which was recently held at the Queen’s Park Gallery. His first solo exhibition in Barbados explored the depths of Life & Death and the impact it has had on Struikelblok from when he started his career more than 30 years ago.
The theme Life & Death depicts the low and high points of Struikelblok’s life. It is a theme that has shaped and influenced his entire career. His paintings reflected his soul-searching journey from dark, depressed, desolate tones during his studies in Jamaica to the explosion of colour he has become known for in the latter part of his career. His work is abstract, emotional and impulsive.
UnSeen explored Struikelblok’s familial ties – the death of his father at a young age; the loneliness of his mother who lost her husband and had been disowned by her family; meeting his grandmother for the first time as an adult; the death of his grandmother shortly after meeting her; his life as a father of three.
He has channelled his feelings of loss, emptiness, insecurity, uncertainty, happiness and elation into his art. Each painting is a diary, peering into Struikelblok’s psyche, intricately woven to tell a story that dates from childhood to who he is today.
Inspired by a friend to take up drawing lessons at the Nola Hatterman Institute from the age of 13, he went on to pursue his studies at the Edna Manley School of Performing Arts in Jamaica after graduating in Suriname.
Speaking to Bajan Vibes about his pieces, Struikelblok explained that he drew on impulse and emotion. He shared that art became his medium for self-expression when words failed.
“You, as an artist, need to find something that has connected with you and happened to you and makes you a person… because I think if my father was alive maybe I would never be an artist, I would never do those things but missing him and the situation I am in gave me more motivation…
“The writer, the singer, everybody has experience and things come from experience. That is how you get inspiration. I think my biggest inspiration is what happened to me as a child and being a father now. To see what I am doing for my children, I never got that. That is how I can make the comparison and that is what you see in my work. The colourful work talks about my life now with my family and the dark work talks about the things that happened to me,” he added.
Struikelblok shared that he taught orphans and disabled children art to help them to express themselves.
“I get that they have the same feelings I had and maybe I can give them some ideas, teach them some techniques, let them think different and put things on paper or on canvas. I use them also in my work to ask for attention for them… I think I can help them find a way to be themselves or try to tell a story,” he stated.