José Quintanar questions the form of a book in an exploration of Dutch landscapes

An investigation into colonisation, the way we read books and the significance of landscapes in Dutch culture; José Quintanar talks us through an extensive ongoing body of work.

28 April 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Four years ago, José Quintanar relocated in Holland – Rotterdam to be precise. As soon as he arrived, he established a weekend routine where, every Saturday, he would cycle down by the water channel which eventually connects the city of Rotterdam with Delft. It was on one of these weekly endeavours where the architect and illustrator who forms one half of Ruja Office came up with the idea of working on a landscape.

“The landscape has always been an important theme in the history of Dutch art,” he tells It’s Nice That on the beginnings of the project. He thought the flowing scenes before him would be a good starting point for a project, and with that in mind, he developed an extensive project that has been going on for the past two years, culminating in five books and a site-specific exhibition so far. The books have been released through his publishing imprint, Ruja Press, a project he created alongside Ruohong Wu in 2013. Under the same name, the two collaborators have also established an experimental architecture playground founded a year later, Ruja Office.

In A Dutch Landscape however, the project focuses on three disparate lines of research that somehow converge along the way. “On one hand,” explains José, “I explore the possibilities of drawing as a game and the ways that the drawing appears as a primary method to establish processes and protocols from rudimentary rules.” Applying his well-ordered training as an architect to the art of the landscape, through this extensive body of work José attempts to understand the ins and outs of the Dutch landscape – achieved by stripping it down to the bare minimum.


José Quintanar: A Dutch Landscape, From Suriname to The Netherlands

Highlighting the significance of the landscape in Dutch culture, José’s project is not only observatory by nature, but also investigatory. He notes how the Dutch landscape was “built by people in an artificial way,” as man-made interventions connected ground to sea more easily. “Hence it is understood that the golden age of landscape painting was not a representation of the landscape, but the representation of an illusion,” continues José.

Throughout the ongoing project, the Spanish architect also delves into the form of the book. Interested in exploring the various possibilities of a book’s structure, in A Dutch Landscape, José probes how the landscape’s two-dimensional representation can be “translated into the temporal space format of a book.” In From Suriname to the Netherlands, the third publication of the series, José explores the notion of colonisation through the convergence of two different kinds of Dutch landscapes. “Colonisation of the territory, of the landscape, but also of other cultures of the past,” he adds.

The book is built from two landscapes, that of Suriname’s – an old Dutch colony – and the Netherland’s. “Each landscape is drawn over and over again,” says José of the 20 page, Risograph-printed volume , “building a series of ten drawings each. In each drawing, the rules of the game have been progressively altered so that each drawing of the same landscape is always different.” Interestingly, the rules used in landscape A are the same rules applied in landscape B but inverted. And in this way, “A and B only make sense when they are connected within the temporary space format of the book.” As a result, the concept of the publication, drawn from geometric patterns of circles that grow in each drawing, in turn, also becomes the narrative of the work.

GalleryJosé Quintanar: A Dutch Landscape, From Suriname to The Netherlands

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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