Talk De Balie with Peter Frankopan & Claudy Jongstra

Peter Frankopan, professor of Global History at Oxford University and author of the international bestseller The Silk Roads (2015), will open the fourth edition of the Forum on European Culture at De Balie in Amsterdam on June first, 2023. Frankopan reflects on this year's central theme: 'A Culture for Democracy'. Europe faces a crossroads. The question is: do we decide on a future defined by imperialism and destructive exploitation or a future defined by democracy and ecological restoration?" he says. In his highly anticipatednew book The Earth Transformed (2023), Frankopan revolutionaizes how the history of climate and the environment have shaped the development - and demise - of civilisations over time. The often neglected climate-geopolitical relationship between humans and nature will also shape our shared future. 

During this evening, journalist and artistic director of De Balie, Youri Albrecht, will also engage with internationally renowned artist and eco-activist Claudy Jongstra with her monumental conversation piece Guernica de la Ecología in the background. With this manifest artwork with exactly the same dimensions as Picasso's famous war painting (360X 790 cm) and a similar message, , Jongstra refers to the careless and unloving way we treat nature and our cultural heritage; her Guernica, made of natural materials like wool dyed with plant pigments, is a very topical warning against climate change and intensive agriculture that is disastrous for biodiversity. After all, the more plant and animal species, the more resilient the ecosystem. With this work, the artist also pleads for sustainable art, craft and skill and the restoration of healthy agriculture in an inclusive working environment.

Many thanks to Museum Kranenburgh for lending the Guernica de la Ecologia to De Balie for one day; the artwork will be on display again at the museum in Bergen from 2 June to 17 September.


Het betere spul

Last week in the Volkskrant: Dutch sheep farmers are left with some 1.5 million kilos of wool every year. A small vanguard of designers, with Claudy Jongstra leading the way, are turning this wool surplus, considered waste, into products. For almost 30 years, Jongstra has shown that it is a very valuable and high-quality material. Her extensive wool knowledge lies in her hands, with which she creates monumental works of art from washed, carded, dyed and felted wool from a flock of rare Drenthe heath sheep that graze in the Frisian countryside and keep the ecosystem in balance. Weved is one of Jongstra's (and Stefan Koper's) other initiatives to give this material with enormous potential a purpose: together with design label Regained, 'Lounge Chair 01' was launched, with a seat made of wool from Drenthe Heath Sheep. Table Tarp 01, a covered picnic table, was produced with Studio Floris Schoonderbeek. Her mission to revive the lost wool industry continues unabated. There are more initiatives on the way that will complete the wool chain again.

Thanks Joline van den Oever, Volkskrant and Willemien Ebbinge (image)

Claudy Jongstra & Guernica de la Ecología at World Conference Goetheanum

Desolate, gloomy and menacing, that’s what the landscape looks like in the monumental work of art Guernica de la Ecología by artist - eco activist Claudy Jongstra. With the title, size (360 x 790 cm) and grayish - bleak colours the artwork is a tribute to Picasso’s iconic outcry against the violence of the Spanish civil war. Jongstra’s nomadic Guernica de la Ecología travels as a visual manifesto with a similar urgent message to restore biodiversity across the globe and will be present on the main stage of the World Conference Goetheanum in Dornach, Switserland from September 27  till October 1, 2023.

With her Guernica as a backdrop Claudy Jongstra will speak about her eco-activist mission fighting against the careless treatment of our planet. Jongstra warns us against climate change and presents a strong plea to bring back the colour in the countryside, to restore biodiversity, for sustainable art and worthy craftsmanship. She also wants to return to wholesome regenerative agriculture, to start working in an inclusive way in a collaboration of food producers, artisans and artists and to honor a sustainable connection between the farmer and the consumer again. 

Guernica de la Ecología embodies an invitation to reflect, to debate and take action and aims to become the starting point for a global movement initiated on the biodynamic farm and botanical garden at Claudy Jongstra’s studio in Friesland.  Where work is done in a strict climate positive setting and in a completely circular, healthy, transparent chain: starting with the vital soil, the biodynamically grown pigment plant species from open pollinated seeds and the wool coming from the ancient Drenthe Heath Sheep that graze the heather locally. The wonderful quality of the materials is transformed by Claudy Jongstra into impressive works of art that find their way all over the world into public buildings, museum collections and private residences. While working as an artist, Jongstra has managed to turn the tide by bringing back biodiversity to the Frisian countryside, ravaged by industrialized monoculture agriculture and showing the benefits that come from a completely sustainable way of working in a harmonious and inclusive environment.

The core of her own studio is always educational and inter-cultural, working with several generations and coworkers from around the world making sure knowledge is shared and transferred, and safeguarding it for posterity. Therefore Jongstra’s global movement is also aimed at social and inter-cultural initiatives that supply renewed connection between local societies while enhancing arts, nature and regenerating farming along the way. 

Adding new value to wool, using colours only from natural resources, safeguarding old knowledge locked in ancient recipes and giving new life to centuries old artisanal skills like spinning, weaving, felting and collaborating with farmers, scientists, fellow artists and organizations in these fields are all part of her mission.

Photo: Michel Claus




Course Materials & Materiality

Studio Claudy Jongstra hosted a group of Art History phd students from the University of Utrecht, Groningen and Amsterdam together with their professor Sven Dupré (Utrecht) and prof dr Ann-Sophie Lehmann (Groningen). In LOADS, the new extension of the studio in Spannum, they participated in a two days course ‘Materials & Materiality’ to lean to use not only their brains, but also their hands by experiencing the feeling, vibrancy and tactility of the material wool. They created felted artworks, learned how to spin by the Frisian Master spinner Greet and weaving by Belgium weaver Eva Jacobs to support their research into textiles, paper or ancient weaving techniques. The course was concluded with a lecture of ‘mental sculpture’ artist and writer Louwrien Wijers (1941) who was once a member of the Fluxus movement, who interviewed among others Andy Warhol and the Dalai Lama and worked together with Joseph Beuys for nearly 20 years. Nature Food Chef Katrien van der Eerden created tasty healthy dishes. 

Triptych Series of Stins for De Veldkeuken

In the beautiful surroundings in a curve of the Kromme Rijn river, on the Amelisweerd and Rhijnauwen estate, lies country house Oud-Amelisweerd and in the former coach house the organic restaurant De Veldkeuken. Surrounded by a vegetable garden, artisan bakery and milling shop with two large grain mills. Just as Claudy Jongstra and her partner Claudia Busson work in a circular and artisanal way on their biodynamic farm in Friesland, bringing centuries-old dye plants back into the landscape, such as the plant woad that produces an intense blue color, so do Juliette and René of De Veldkeuken. Lovingly engaged in a sustainable and healthy food chain, they are putting ancient grain varieties back on the map - literally and figuratively. Like Utrechtse Blauwe, a type of grain they use to bake bread, brew beer and distil genever. 

In line with their shared philosophy and mission, and with the surroundings as inspiration, Claudy Jongstra created an acoustic wool-felted triptych for the restaurant entitled 'Series of Stins'. A monumental artwork of 4 by 2.50 metres based on the autumn harvest, the glow of the sun and the colors of the season, will soon enrich an entire wall. On the opposite side will be a work inspired by the meandering water of the river, and the third work refers to the fertile soil, preparing to carry and nourish the crops for the next season. The artist uses wool from Drenthe Heath Sheep, colored with dye plants from the estate's horticulture. The rhubarb leaf, for instance, serves as a 'stain', allowing the fibres of the wool to 'open up' and the wool to absorb the colour well. Various historical Stitsen plants also add color to the artworks. 

Later, a residency and research period in cooperation with Centraal Museum in Utrecht, will lead to an exhibition of new works inspired by the various 17th-century wallpapers in the in the Oud-Amelisweerd country house.