Didam – Paintings of 91-year-old Mrs. Jos Slootweg are on display in the outbuilding of the Reformed Community Church in Didam. For more than fifty years, drawing has been her passion and life: “When I paint, I forget the world around me, only then the drawing is there.”
Written by Karen van der Velden
Every week Jos Slootweg goes to Duisburg to work on her paintings in Ellie Slegten’s studio in the attic or in the garden. “She comments on my work and is very good at enthusiasm. Her husband, Martin Hendricks, is organizing my exhibition now. He tells me a lot about painting theory. A perfect combination.”
“Painting is so relaxing and relativ to me. I can let my mind go. I turn the painting into a kind of poem, these are things that happen in my head. I paint it on canvas. I’m left-handed, but I take an old piece of canvas in my left hand and then I run that rag on The canvas without looking. Then I will see what I see in it. I turn the curtain four times. When I look at the four sides, I will pick one. The four sides can become another painting. I see pictures in everything. Even when I look at a rug, I see, for example , males and animals. Gus captures an imaginative palette of green with soft yellow and pink. All kinds of animal characters appear out of nowhere. Then a very realistic painting also appears. Beach view with seagulls and cormorants. This painting is on the cover of a book about my life. I gave it to kids when I turned 91. “
Gus collected the paintings needed for the exhibition. “There is also a great deal of private party work, but I never tracked where he went. It all depends on my kids too. And I still have some storage.”
Doctors without borders
The paintings are also on sale: “I decided to put a minimum price on them, which is mainly material costs. People can pay extra cost. All proceeds from the exhibition will go to Doctors Without Borders. Very nice and useful goal. Your health is the most important. If people don’t have access to healthcare, it will be disastrous.”
Mrs. Slotwig knows what she is talking about, she has been in the hospital regularly. “I had hip surgery at a young age, and then I stayed in the hospital for months.” It hindered her in her studies, though she studied more than many other women of her age. “I wasn’t born for the family,” she says with a laugh. After working as a stenographer, she studied to become a teacher and taught stenography and machine writing at several high schools. “I did it in Dutch, but also in English, German and French.” The process prematurely finished her law studies, which she did for two years at the University of Amsterdam. This was followed by study of the French language which was interrupted when her husband, Joss, married at a young age and had to go to England to work. I felt like an orphan there. My parents had just passed away, the eldest of them stayed in Holland to study and I had to leave my pets behind. I shed many tears.
One day a neighbor called me when I was in pain. She invited me to join her for tea in the morning. I also learned the details of English this way. I knew the English language of commerce, but I did not know the English of the garden and the kitchen. When she asked me: Can you give me the colander, I didn’t know she wanted the colander. Then I started studying English and later Spanish. Later the neighbor introduced me to the Townsend Guild. A kind of housewives association. There were all kinds of subcommittees and this is where I called the drawing. I’ve always loved drawing. When I was a kid I said “Tes” and then my mom knew I wanted to draw. I knew that word before Mama. Later, I always made drawings in my children’s photo albums. Draw my neighbor postcards. That sounded pretty fun, but I had no idea how to get started. When the guild asked who wanted to learn oil painting, I applied. The first year was very theoretical, and it was all about mixing colors and relationships with each other. And although many students dropped out, I stuck with it and went to Hanson College of Adult Education for several years. My teacher was a New Zealander living in England. He focused heavily on impressionism. Then he talked about the impressionist painter during the lessons. I’ve read all kinds of books and art books about painters.”
Gus loves to paint in the great outdoors. Sometimes there is a kind of magical realism that flows through her work. For example, in the painting of a pond in a garden, you can see that shrubs are actually strange creatures. “I never paint from an example, but the work grows. I tell crazy stories. Look at this painting with ponies and birds. Nice for a children’s room. You can think of a story like that.” Another painting is her grandson’s urn. A short poem around it: Do not stand at my grave, I am not here, I have not died. Her grandson died very young, he was only 21, and you can only read the poem if you know the shorthand.
Back to Holland
The grandchildren were a reason to return to Holland. “When my husband retired, we moved to a small village just above Cambridge. But I wanted to see the grandchildren grow up, so we went back to Holland and ended up in Lowell in 1983. I fell into a hole again in Holland. Because I read so much about techniques and art styles, I wanted to To know how the old masters set things up. In Tony Ross at Lopeth I learned old techniques.” Gus shows a still life painting with cabinet, copper kettle, then evolution through the abstract painting that can be seen in the background. “I’ve been painting in Doesburg for decades now, and I don’t know I’ll ever be that old. Every week I go there by taxi. It’s great that this is possible! So much has been done for seniors, I don’t really have to complain. And I’m still far from painting!”
The exhibition with paintings by Mrs. Jos Slootweg takes place on 26-29 May and 4-5 June. Every day from 12 noon to 4 pm in the outbuilding of the Reformed Church, Torenstraat 10, 6942 BG Didam.