Science - June 2, 2005

Painting your own Holland

‘Every country has its own peculiarities; think of the smells, the food and the clothes people wear. Think of the moment when you arrived in Holland and stepped out of the aeroplane. Choose a subject, use your imagination and put it down on paper,’ artist Jan Brinkman encourages the group of students who are looking somewhat hesitantly at the big empty sheet of paper in front of them. A group of about fifteen students have chosen to paint instead of sitting on a café terrace this hot Friday evening.

Under the slogan ‘painting your feelings about Holland’ the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) invited international students last Friday to join the Arty Party. ‘This is a not-too-serious way of getting in touch with our target group, and you never know what might come of it. On top of that it’s always pleasant and fun to meet these students and paint together with them,’ tells Elseline Tuinier, head of the ICF activities committee.

On the paper in front of the Iranian master student of leisure tourism and environment, Faranahaz, a colourful collection of people starts to appear: people with dogs, on a bike, with red hair and with an umbrella. ‘These are the things that have most struck me here and that you don’t see in Iran.’ The Portuguese student Nund has included a large clock in his painting. ‘People here are always on time. In my opinion Holland is just an on-time country. Time has a big influence here.’

Leading the evening is Jan Brinkman, a professional painter who organises Arty Parties in many university towns. ‘What’s fascinating is that you can recognise people’s culture and background in the way they paint. The Dutch for example are very direct in how they paint, and start putting down their depiction quickly on paper. Chinese people on the other hand usually start very carefully and only at the very end do they fill in the strokes that make the picture recognisable.’ The only Chinese student present, Hao Wu, lives up to this description. With a thin brush he paints in great detail the tulip fields he saw at the Keukenhof.

The canvas of the French student Agnes is a jumble of green paint strips. ‘Wageningen is like a green explosion, especially in April. Everything is just green, green, green!’ Jasmin from Nepal is not as enthusiastic about Wageningen. ‘I’ve divided my paper in two to highlight the differences between Nepal and Holland. Here you see the mountains in Nepal, and here is your Wageningse ‘berg’. In our country a little lump in the landscape like this wouldn’t even be called a hill. And the Rhine you are so proud of is little more than a stream where we come from.’

This evening exaggeration is no problem because everyone’s painting is their own interpretation. The real Holland is of course nowhere to be seen, but the different paintings give a good impression of the opinions present. Holland is small, flat and it rains all the time. / RK

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