Catalogue essay written by Juliana Irene Smith

The Warrior: Barbara Wildenboer

Once upon a time there was a water nymph with long legs who loved making paper boats by the ponds edge. She could sit there for hours listening to the sounds around her as her hands worked away. She adored how the current would take the little boats this way and that way. One day when she came of age, she met her frog prince.  He was charming, very charming indeed. He took her around the pond and showed her all the secret gems in the area, like the drops of water at dusk, with their subtle hues of lilac. He even took her on a wooden boat to the eerie edges of the forest. She fell in love. It was grand. He entrusted his seed to her and two strong tadpole boys were born. For a while it was bliss. However, after some time the frog prince dreamt of exploring the world of swamp diving and new adventures and a flood of pollution from a newly built factory swept over the forest. Every creature had to pack up their lily pads and look to start anew.  The water nymph was sad but knew that the future would be all right, and she took her tadpoles and moved to the big city by the ocean. She hoped for a life where the wind would blow away the smog. In her heart she continued to hear the gurgling of the pond…

Stop.

Life, if only it was a fairytale.

A single mother of two, she works hard, she pushes forward.

What is this about?
What is the moral of the story?
Should there be one?

Stop.

Which is more important the artist’s story or the one she wants to create for you?

The story: youthful, reminiscent, magical, and to some it is even true. There is also a dark side, just like the dark side of the moon. There is a concern, the concern of the artist’s and the concern, possibly in the romantic for the audience, the onlookers, spectators and even the voyeurs.

Stop.

In viewing Barbara Wildenboer’s artwork, one of the first reactions is to the beauty. Beauty is a difficult word in the language of contemporary art. But beauty is comfort and offers a pause. Her work has a soft pleasing quality. She challenges the observer not with ‘what is art’ but rather invites them to get closer and look below the surface. Nature is fragile. Her work questions the consideration of beauty in the natural world and gives us a journey to go on. There are no hard and fast statements, but rather eluding references.

Stop.

It refers to a pause.

What I want to do is to give a picture of both the artist and the work, through the voice of someone who has heard her fairytales, discussed her work and my own over countless coffees, beers and wine and to relay a story that exists both in the reality and the fantasy (I am her younger son’s fairy godmother). We all continue to push through the swamps and the muck, sometimes catching glimpses of unearthly splendour when the light of the dewdrops is just right and the smog has been blown away. Her work does not beg you to do homework to understand it, but rather it uses classic narratives, mythological guides and reflects on our most basic and important natural resource, water.

Pause.