EXHIBITION 2022 : “Claws & Critters”

Grachtenmuseum Amsterdam

Exploring Animals in Art

What do you see when you look closely at an animal in art? In the captivating exhibition “Beestenboel” within the Claws & Critters showcase, photographer Yasmine Asha invites visitors to delve deeply into the intricate details of animals depicted in art, encouraging them to immerse themselves in the creatures’ worlds. The exhibition proved so captivating that its run at the Grachtenmuseum in Amsterdam was extended to six months.

The animals captured by Yasmine Asha are drawn from the Grachtenmuseum’s permanent collection, spanning seventeenth-century still lifes, portraits, and landscapes. While these creatures may not have been the focal point of their respective works, Yasmine’s lens elevates them to center stage, allowing viewers to appreciate the symbolism inherent in each animal.

Yasmine Asha’s Perspective

Yasmine’s work is distinguished by her keen eye for detail and her propensity to view the world with openness. She seeks out and magnifies the nuances that catch her attention in her photographs and films, constantly unearthing new layers of meaning. Through this exhibition, she guided visitors’ gazes to perceive the world through her unique lens.

For instance, a seemingly insignificant element – a mere fly nestled within a fruit-laden still life. To Yasmine, it evoked a range of conflicting emotions. “On one hand, I feel irritation, instinctively wanting to shoo it away,” she muses, “but on the other hand, the composition and vibrant colors imbue the image with a striking beauty.” Through her lens, spectators are invited to adopt the fly’s perspective, potentially leading them to envision the still life as a sumptuous feast tailored for the fly.

“Among the captivating artworks, one painting in particular caught my eye – a portrayal of a weary donkey. Its drooping ears, sagging posture, and sorrow-filled eyes spoke volumes, hinting at a lifetime burdened by toil and hardship. Against the backdrop of vibrant colors and bustling scenes, this depiction stood out, stirring a sense of empathy within me. This silent observer of the world around it reminded me of the unseen struggles endured by creatures sharing our world, prompting me to shine a spotlight on its story.” expressed Yasmine.
In contrast to traditional paintings where animals often serve as background elements, Yasmine’s photographs elevate them to protagonists, compelling viewers to empathize. Balancing focus on the animals with an awareness of their surroundings, she honors the artist’s craft by capturing technical mastery and intricate details.

A Journey through Art and Architecture

The grandeur of the Canal Museum’s architecture provides an exquisite backdrop for Yasmine’s photographs. Nestled along the Herengracht, this elegant seventeenth-century building offers a glimpse into Amsterdam’s historic canal district. Yasmine is impressed by the building, brimming with charm and sophistication: “The sheer scale of the pastoral scenes adorning its walls is truly remarkable.”

For younger visitors, the exhibition offered a delightful treasure hunt, prompting them to seek out the animals depicted in the paintings scattered throughout the museum. Through this playful activity, children were encouraged to appreciate the broader context of the artwork, fostering a deeper connection with both the paintings and the museum itself.