Upcoming solo exhibition in Gallery Untitled, Rotterdam

The extinct Dodo is revived in the work of the Hague artist Pepijn van den Nieuwendijk. His new exhibition, ‘The Time Traveler’, opens in September 2022 in Gallery Untitled in Rotterdam. It turns out that the legendary bird did not become extinct in the 17th century, but has been traveling ever since. The displaced Dodo searches for congeners and a safe place to live. He appears in all kinds of guises and historical scenes in Van den Nieuwendijk’s work, who recognizes something of himself in the time traveler. As a child, the artist was fascinated by history and archaeology, which later mixed with elements from comics, the circus and other modern visual culture in his work. The result is a world all of its own: a unique oeuvre in ceramics and finely detailed ink drawings, populated by Dodos and other strange creatures.

Flee and Survive

“The tragic story of the extinct bird really appeals to me,” says van den Nieuwendijk. “The Dodo lives on because we continue to portray it in books, art and movies. Think of Alice in Wonderland, Boudewijn Büch’s collection or comic strips like Douwe Dabbert, which were a source of inspiration for me. In my work, the Dodo survives by traveling in time, looking for congeners and a safe place to exist. The first work I made on this theme, ‘Return of the Dodo’, is an oil painting about the resurrection of the Dodo when humanity is defeated.”

Later, the Dodo took the form of a traveler, dressed in a long coat with a backpack, headphones or suitcase, or in a harness with a mattress under the arm. He peers into the distance on a bare rock or stands on a stool, “like small children standing on a stool to look out the window at the exciting outside world. My Dodo is the main character in a story, an adventurer, a sort of Tintin”. In drawings, this traveler is pushed on a wave through time. Ceramic sculptures of a sleeping Dodo on a bobbing raft or mattress evoke associations with migrations and refugees, images that we now see on TV. Sleeping is an escape from reality for the tired bird, as drawing is for the artist.

Historic details in ceramics and ink

In Van den Nieuwendijk’s detailed work, viewers will recognize all kinds of historical details, such as references to Chinese raak porcelain and Delft blue. The drawing ‘From the bird book of Jahangir’, in which the Dodo is depicted as the emperor of the bird kingdom, is based on a real 17th-century Indian emperor. Jahangir had a bird collection with two live Dodos, a gift from Portuguese merchants. Jahangir’s court artist Ustad Mansur illustrated beautiful books for him, his Dodo drawing is considered the most accurate.”

Van den Nieuwendijk sees himself in the bird: “I used to travel not much or far, until I had to go to China for an assignment and a whole new world opened up for me. Also the Dodo never left his island, because he could not fly, until he was suddenly taken by sailors and so began his journey. By depicting him on an island or boat in a raging sea, I emphasize the tragedy of his fate.” In Van den Nieuwendijk’s most recent work, the Dodo continues its adventure, as in the drawing of an immense mountain, along which all kinds of creatures travel up and down. On top is a temple building with a large egg inside. The artist likes to leave the meaning of such images to the imagination of the viewer.

New exhibition in Gallery Untitled

The exhibition ‘The Time Traveler – Dodos in the oeuvre of Pepijn van den Nieuwendijk’ can be seen from 9 September to 6 November 2022 in Gallery Untitled, Koningsveldestraat 14, Rotterdam (Fri/Sat/Sun 11am-5pm).
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