About Gallery Amber


Gallery Amber was founded in 1988 on Hooglandsekerkgracht 8 in Leiden, The Netherlands. A collection of old Japanese scrolls (kakemono) was the base of the gallery, combined with exhibitions of other old Japanese scrolls (e.g. collection of Janette Ostier from Paris) and ceramics from the Far East, as well Sung porcelain as modern ceramics (e.g. Kap Sun Hwang and Si Sook Kang from Korea).

It became increasingly difficult to find old Japanese scrolls of good quality and at the same time the interest of the gallery shifted focus towards modern painting with a strong influence of the Far East. The gallery showed works of Walodja Haho, Ludo Winkelman and Frederick Franck. In 1994, in the “Old Church” in Amsterdam, Gallery Amber hosted a large exhibition of 50 kakemono and more than 100 works of modern, Asia-related painters.

In 1994 Octaaf Roefs visits Johnson Chang of Hanart Gallery in Hong Kong. Through Chang he got introduced to painters of the exhibition “China's New Art Post-1989” and to some young painters on different academies in Hong Kong and China. Amber tries to bring some of these painters to The Netherlands. Unfortunately it turns out the time is “not ripe” for this art in the Netherlands yet. No museum or gallery is interested to co-operate.

To financially facilitate doing bigger projects the EWF (East West Foundation) is founded in 1996. In 1997 the EWF made an overview-exhibition “Free scope to Chinese Tradition” of the Malaysian painter Chung Sen Sun. This artist makes totally modern painting with its origin in the Chinese painting tradition.

Slowly but surely Amber and EWF shift focus from Asia to the Middle East. In 2001 the EWF organises a big overview exhibition of modern Iranian art in Gallery Amber as well as in other galleries in Leiden, The Hague, and Paris. In 2002 Amber hosted an EWF exhibition of the Iranian women’s group Dena that also travelled to Italy, Spain, France, Hungary and Finland. The exhibition “Syria Now” follows in 2003 and “Iraq, still going strong” in 2005.

The exhibition “Vietnam Today” in 2004 is a step back into Asia. There are plans for an exhibition of Palestinian and Israeli artists together, for an exhibition of landscape from East to West, and for an exhibition of calligraphy from East to West, a hearts desire of Amber.

Unfortunately, the death of Octaaf Roefs during his trip to Malaysia in 2007, brings an abrupt end to these dreams. Ambitions must be adjusted. The birth of our only grandchild Katrijn in South Africa in 2006 also formed an important factor in the decision “how to proceed?”. Being in South Africa four months per year makes it difficult to do the travelling to other destinations required to realise similar exhibitions.

Fortunately the possibility of communicating via the internet offers a solution: On this website Amber likes to inform you about past, available, and forthcoming works of “her artists”, and create new “virtual exhibitions” following in the footsteps of Amber and EWF tradition.


Aesthetical considerations

In the last two decades, as an unintentional result of globalisation, Fine Art became more and more uniform all over the world. Gallery Amber and the EWF like to recognize, to smell, to taste the sounds of a region, and to find traces of an artist’s roots in a work of art. We avoid art that is just ‘global’, made by a ‘nowhere man’ from a ‘no man’s land’. Far from a denial of origins, a meeting of East and West is interesting, specifically if it is an integration in which distinctive qualities can be preserved. From a work of art we like to be able to deduce notions about its origin and its cultural background.

Dealing with art originating from the Far East, from the Middle East, and from the West over time, we came to understand line, shape, and a combination of these two can guide the observer:

  • The origin of Chinese and Japanese painting lies in its adored meeting of poetry and painting in lines: Calligraphy. From this linear ‘point’ of departure the Far Eastern painter starts. [The word for painting is in Indonesia ‘seni lukis’: the fineness of the line.]
  • In the West architecture with its shapes is called the ‘mother of the arts’. In the European tradition, middle-ages, renaissance, baroque, romanticism, realism and again in modern art the shape dominates.
  • In between West and Far East is the Persian and Arabian Middle east. Here we find deep and intensive colours, a combination of traditional calligraphy and strong architecture: line and shape together.