I Hit You With a Flower

23 November 2024 - 4 May 2025

From 23 November 2024 to 4 May 2025, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam will be showcasing I Hit You With a Flower – sugar-coated art with a punch, an eye-catchingly sweet exhibition that celebrates diversity in society. It is also a tribute to ‘girly art’, a term that has often been used as a derogatory label but is now being reclaimed as a badge of honour. On show are works by pioneers such as Lily van der Stokker, Kinke Kooi and Pipilotti Rist as well as younger artists such as Vera Gulikers, Frances Goodman, Dae Uk Kim, Jurjen Galema, Mari Katayama and Alex Naber & ChelseaBoy. More than twenty Dutch and international artists will dazzle visitors with everything from pinks and pastels to vibrant colours, gold, glitter, flowers and other motifs. Their frivolous works of art are as enticing as they are intelligent. Through a delightful and alluring approach, these artists engage you with their velvet activism and the open society they stand for. Getting involved has never been so much fun.

Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All, 1997 Audio video installation by Pipilotti Rist (video still) © Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine / Pictoright, 2024

Kinke Kooi, Visit, 2019 acrylic paint and (coloured) pencil on paper,102 x 120 cm Collection Stedelijk Museum Schiedam

I Hit You With a Flower

The exhibition is inspired by the resurgence of ‘girly art’ – meisjeskunst in Dutch; a term coined in the 1980s to describe work by artists, particularly female artists, who diverged from the dominant visual language. This label was soon applied to artists like Lily van der Stokker and Kinke Kooi, leading to their work being undervalued for many years. Despite this, they remained true to their artistic vision, consistently exploring the use of pink, pastels, soft shapes and materials and themes traditionally seen as feminine. Pipilotti Rist’s video installation, Ever is Over All, perfectly encapsulates the essence of I Hit You With a Flower. Set to dreamy music, it features a young woman in a sky-blue dress strolling down the street. Suddenly, she lashes out and smashes a car window with … a flower. This striking scene embodies the powerful and beautiful nature of feminism. Interestingly, ‘girly art’ is no longer the sole preserve of women.

A plethora of younger artists have embraced the stylistic elements and philosophy of the genre, including Netherlands-based artists Vera Gulikers, Dae Uk Kim and Jurjen Galema, as well as international artists such as Jakob Lena Knebl, Mari Katayama and Alan Hernández. These artists use humour, empathy and over-the-top styling to subtly challenge the established norm and create a society where there is room for everyone.

“Why can’t political activism not also be seen through the lens of things which are very beautiful, joyful or celebrative? Maybe in a queer way that whatever pain you experience you use joy as a strategy to overcome that.” – Rory Pilgrim

Think Pink

In this genre of art, aesthetics and subject matter are deeply intertwined. While colour and playfulness are often dismissed as superficial in art and society, these artists use them to create profound depth. An entire book could be devoted to the fascinating history of the colour pink, which evokes associations with tenderness, childishness, plastic, pornography, cuteness, cosmetics and frivolity. It is therefore hardly surprising that pink is one of the central colours featured in this exhibition. The artists reflect on the values and emotions associated with this colour; they critique pink, but they also embrace it. This ambiguity extends to all elements of the ‘girly art’ aesthetic.

Vera Gulikers, From dust to fling, hoover and swing, 2019 Flock, hoover, metal, mixed technique, 320 x 100 x 50 cm, ©Vera Gulikers, photography by Peter Cox / Collection Bonnefanten

“A male lecturer at art school was completely sickened by my use of colours. He said: “It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, can’t you stop?” That extreme reaction fascinated me. I realised that those colours could be a form of protest.” – Vera Gulikers

An exuberant visual language full of decoration, folklore, kitsch and camp

The artists have a penchant for accessible techniques such as drawing, watercolour, ceramics, textile processing and handicrafts – perhaps not coincidentally, techniques that until recently in this part of the world were the reserve of women or other oppressed and undervalued groups of society. Mexican artist Alan Hernández intentionally incorporates in his work folk art from his region, subtly demonstrating that what is often dismissed as folklore is an art form in its own right. He depicts flowers, genitalia and other body parts in delicate embroidery and other handiwork. His ambiguous execution – prickly where one might expect silky softness – blurs the boundaries between the sexes

Mari Katayama, Bystander #016, 2016, Collection Antoine de Galbert, Paris Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve, Paris

Dae Uk Kim, SIA, 2020, Synthetic hair, mop, lampshade, light bulb, hair accessory, Collection Dae Uk Kim, Photo by Dae Uk Kim

Non-precious materials such as beads, rhinestones, sequins, mirrors and cosmetics are at once in vogue and meaningful. South African artist Frances Goodman depicts a seductive and menacing image of women in flowery sculptures made of acrylic nails. Dae Uk Kim drew inspiration from pop artist Sia’s extravagant hairstyles to create a lamp made from synthetic hair. Rory Pilgrim uses glitter nail polish to paint a world full of love, while Anna Aagaard Jensen & Micheline Nahra add the finishing touches to their Love Seat with foundation.

Decoration plays a role on many levels in this genre. Japanese artist Mari Katayami dons wigs, fabulous make-up, sexy lingerie and homemade, lavishly decorated prosthetic legs, and then takes photographs. She decorates the frames with pearls, diamonds and shells. These fairylike self-portraits radiate the beauty and wholeness of a body with no lower legs and five-fingered hands.

Ellande Jaureguiberry, Les Fruits de La Terre #2, 2021, coloured pencil on paper

Anna Aagaard Jensen, Shantay, 2022, Polystyrene, Metal, Fiberglas, A1, Resin, 160 x 80 x 160 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Etage Projects

‘Own your body’

Several artists explore the body, expanding traditional notions of beauty. Jakob Lena Knebl, for example, rejects the idea that beauty is limited to slimness. Her lollipop-like sculptures, crafted from shimmering lacquer, celebrate the voluptuous and sensual body. Inspired by Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse, Anna Aagaard Jensen’s floral lamps whimsically highlight the unspoken rules dictating a woman’s posture. Instead of legs neatly together or crossed, these sculptures unabashedly engage in ‘manspreading’.

Queer empowerment is another ‘pink thread’ that runs through this exhibition. With his fluid approach, Ellande Jaureguiberry’s pastel drawings open up the concept of gender. Richard Otparlic draws some of his inspiration from gay dating sites and influencers. He copies these poses, fashions and body cults and cranks them up a notch in his colourful digital compositions.

Béatrice Lussol, N°595 watercolour and ink. Photography by Gilles Berquet⁠

Vulvissima

Another thematic ‘pink thread’ weaving through the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, sexuality and eroticism. Within this genre, artists depict eroticism and sexuality as far more stimulating and imaginative than the prevailing mediocrity. Through her sensual photography, French artist Lucile Boiron allows female bodily fluids to cascade freely, bathing them in divine light. Under the heading ‘vulvissima’, a term introduced by curator Nanda Janssen, the vulva is praised with love and light-heartedness. It is a body part that, unjustly, is still underappreciated both medically and socially. Precisely for this reason, French artist Béatrice Lussol has dedicated the last two decades to painting vulvas in watercolour, portraying them as rococo-like opera singers, landscapes, planets and even cakes adorned with playful details.

Concept, composition and artists

The exhibition was conceived and compiled by curator Nanda Janssen. Many of these artists are showing their work in the Netherlands for the first time. Participating artists: Alan Hernández, Alex Naber & ChelseaBoy, Anna Aagaard Jensen (and with Micheline Nahra), Araks Sahakyan, Béatrice Lussol, Dae Uk Kim, Ellande Jaureguiberry, Frances Goodman, Jakob Lena Knebl, Jurjen Galema, Kinke Kooi, Lily van der Stokker, Lucile Boiron, Mari Katayama, Marijke Vasey, Mona Cara, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, Pipilotti Rist, Richard Otparlic & Lucas Tortolano, Rory Pilgrim, Sarah Tritz, Vera Gulikers and Zoe Williams.

An adapted version of the exhibition will travel to the MABA in Nogent-sur-Marne, France.

Header image: ‘Under the Surface’ (2022) by Kinke Kooi