DISCOVER Magazine #7

The art of shipbuilding. A place of work and its works of art

Published in category: Heritage & Culture

Every year in the Damen Magazine, we look at the work the Damen Shipyards Group and the Damen family do to encourage the arts and access to them. Each edition, the magazine speaks to a theatre, museum, gallery or other such institution with which Damen has a relationship. This year, however, we decided to do things a little differently and instead take a look at the works of art to be found at Damen’s headquarters.

The Damen family has a love of art, something that they are keen to share with others. Josien Damen: “We want to encourage access to culture wherever possible and this certainly includes our own employees in their place of work.”

To those ends, works of art are displayed at various public spaces and in a number of offices at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem. Here, Mrs Damen takes us on a tour of some of the paintings, sculptures and photographs to be found at Damen’s HQ.

Piece by Willem Hendrik Mesdag

Mr Damen is very fond of the Haagse School and there are a number of examples in his office. This example shown here is by Mesdag.

“Mesdag often painted Dutch coastal scenes. The sombre colours used by the Haagse School painters are perfect for depicting the North Sea and its fishing fleets. He was also very good at capturing the dramatic Dutch skies and their clouds,” says Mrs Damen.

Аamiliebedrijf Jan Leeuwenburgh

In the reception of Damen’s HQ, at the entrance to the building, guests are greeted by a sculpture by Jan Leeuwenburgh. It depicts numerous people crowded into a small boat and is named, appropriately, familiedbedrijf – family business.

“I like Jan Leeuwenburgh’s work very much,” states Mrs Damen, who is herself a ceramist. “There’s a lot of humour in it.”

This is the product of the artist’s simplified style. Leeuwenburgh is a local artist whose work has been influenced by the region – including the presence of the shipbuilding industry.

“His work is very special. It’s endlessly polished until it looks like stone,” continues Mrs Damen.

This piece to me represents the very extended network of the Damen family.


Decks awash – Montague Dawson

Montague Dawson was a famous, British maritime artist. The example shown here is hung on the wall of Mr Damen’s office.

“He liked this painting because it’s so realistic. Look at the movement of the waves – I almost get seasick from it!”

The painting shows a barque in rough seas taking water on deck.

“Life was like that aboard such a ship. It was hard. It was rough. Dawson was really able to capture the moment.”

Flowers – Zhuang Hong Yi

In the office of Kommer Damen’s secretary, Eliza Erkelens, hang two pieces from Chinese artist Zhuang Hong Yi’s Flower series – Royal Blue and Sunrise.

Eliza explains, “The artist uses special materials, forms and colours to combine traditional Chinese influence with characteristics of western impressionism. He’s based in the Netherlands actually, but returns to his studio in Beijing a few times each year for inspiration.”

Eliza is very happy with the colourful images that adorn her office walls. “The pictures are very bright and cheerful – many people comment on them when they come into the room. I was really happy when they were placed here.”

Indië was ons paradijs – Annelies Damen

This series of photographic images – which have been displayed throughout the Netherlands – were created by a member of the Damen family – Annelies Damen. The pictures are a tribute to Mrs Damen’s mother and can be found adorning the walls of Damen’s museum and archives.

Following Indonesian independence in 1949, many Dutch people were forced to leave the islands over the next two decades – including Mrs Damen’s family.

Each image, with names such as Mist, Joy, Farewell and Blossom show scenes from Indonesia, such as flowers, paddy fields and landscapes. In each of the images, in a watermark-like fashion, Mrs Damen’s mother can be seen.

The final image in the series shows the sea. “This is the sea they had to cross to come to the Netherlands. My mother never returned to Indonesia until she was in her 80s. It took her a long while to be able to go back.”

Staand object – Vera Galis

Staand Object (Standing Object) stands at the entrance to ‘the tower’, the newest building at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, which opened in 2009.

We wanted to give something to the new building when it opened,” says Mrs Damen. “We thought it would be nice to do something with a local artist.

Vera_Galis_metal_workThe local artist was Vera Galis. Vera works with metals, painstakingly making each piece of her sculptures by hand. Her work is displayed in public areas of organisations around the Netherlands. It uses space, light and reflection to create interaction between architecture and art. The building at Damen’s headquarters is itself a very light and spacious one so is a fitting place to show such an approach.

“When we commissioned her, Vera was asked her to do something that would fit with what we do. She was inspired by the nozzles on vessels being constructed in the production hall.”

New York City – A marathon for all

“We saw this James Rizzi piece in a gallery in Switzerland and were immediately taken with it.”

The Damens selected the image to hang in a communal seating area where colleagues go to talk or take telephone calls. The piece, from 1997, shows the cityscape of New York during a city marathon in the cheery, 3-D style for which the artist is renowned.

“I just loved the elaborate details of it, there’s so much going on, you can spend hours looking at it,” states Mrs Damen.

Bowl – Olaf Stevens

This piece, to be seen in the library at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, is made by local artist Olaf Stevens, husband of Vera Galis who made Staand Object (described above).

“Olaf has a very special technique, that he developed himself. He uses multiple layers of coloured glass, repeatedly heated and molded before the final cut and polish. This piece looks very simple at first glance, but if you look, the colours are beautiful.”

The bowl is a deep purple colour, inlaid with gold leaf, offering a subtle, pleasing contrast.


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