RAVE Rotorua Residency 2012/13 – Sonja van Kerkhoff

Sonja van Kerkhoff’s project for the December 2012 – January 2013 RAVE (Rotorua Artist Village)

Signs and symbols are not only easier to see but can also say something about the person: their history or what they like.  
This is a detail of the wall of a house from the 1800s in Southern Germany, August 2012.

Wouldn’t it be fun to say, Grandma’s room is the one with the orange dragon.

Art for Orientation

Years ago in Amsterdam I saw an art project in an old folks home, where each door was painted as a mural. I’ve always wanted to do something similar, for art’s sake and as a means of orientation for the elderly. I had also worked as a trainee nurse in old folks homes and saw a need. It is easier to find a room if there’s a huge painting of a flower or animal or symbol for both visitors and the residents, and the art can reinforce the individual identity of the resident. And now I am reminded of this when I have to look for my mother-in-law’s room, in a rest home in Christchurch.

Tailor Made Art

I will interview each person (if possible with their family members) who would want a painting to hang on their door or next to their door, so we come up with a symbol or image they want.

It would be easy to say “her room is at the purple hat” to a new visitor.

My interview will help them decide what it is that they want and the painting hung in the hall is theirs to keep.

It might be a bright red tea-cup painted in the style of a van Gogh painting, a pair of golden scissors, an rainbow in sixteen shades of pink or a green cat with three eyes. It might be a Puhutakawa tree or a star, a fluffy cloud or a raindrop.

The idea is to hang paintings in a hallway creating strong identifiable elements. The residents might even want each door in a shared hallway to be a differing flower so that hall becomes the hall of the flowers while another hallway could be one with the colourful cats.

Or several residents might choose a common theme such as butterflies where some choose an artistic interpretation such as the red butterfly above while others choose naturalistic or cartoon images of butterflies.

Or to say, “My room is at the Polka dot pointillist guitar”

Each painting will be especially made for the resident of the room, and hopefully that symbol or image will also be painted by someone who lives in Rotorua. I will help anyone who needs help with with the work, so family members might to help make the painting.

Each painting will be painted in the studio simultaneously with others, so visitors to RAV can also see the progress of these paintings and that is where anyone can help with making a painting.

Each painting will be documented here as well with a little bit about the story behind its creation and in which home it is located.

I’ve painted and made murals in various materials (from large walls, on fabrics, on clothing, on wood, etc), so the choice of material will depend in part on what is possible in the home.

Once a residential home has agreed to allow a painting to be attached either temporarily or permanently to the door or next to the door of a resident’s room, I will make contact with residents or their families. Ideally a family member will be my initial point of contact, and they might supply me with some information about their elderly family member.
So ask your mother, father, whaea, kuia, gran, nan, grandma, grandad, grandpa, koro:

Would you like a painting on your door?

Dutch/New Zealand artist Sonja van Kerkhoff will come and interview you about what you would like. Would you like your favourite animal, a special object, or element of nature or something completely different? Wouldn’t it be fun to say to your visitors, my door is the one with the purple unicorn. Or to say, just look for the van Gogh crimson carnation? Or, “My room’s at the sign of the windmill”

You will have a say about how the painting is made. It could be impressionist or art deco, a Picasso-like violin or a surrealist fork, like a cartoon or done in a realistic manner.

If you or your family member would like a painting made (on card or other materials) in December 2012 and January 2013, email sonjavank AT hotmail.com or make a comment below giving me a way to meet you at the RAV studios from December 14th onwards.

If anyone wishes to be involved but doesn’t have a family member in a home, I’ll find someone they can adopt for the project and vice versa.


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