Exhibition — Sculpture, Painting

Sedje Hémon / Imran Mir / Abdias Nascimento – Abstracting Parables

1 July up to 16 October 2022
→ Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Museumplein 10
1071 DJ Amsterdam Amsterdam
  • Monday 10:00—18:00
  • Tuesday 10:00—18:00
  • Wednesday 10:00—18:00
  • Thursday 10:00—18:00
  • Friday 10:00—18:00
  • Saturday 10:00—18:00
  • Sunday 10:00—18:00
Open today from 10:00 to 18:00

The next stop on the journey of sonsbeek 20→24, the international Arnhem-based art manifestation, will be Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. This exhibition brings together three historical artistic positions, that of: Dutch-Jewish painter and composer Sedje Hémon, Afro-Brazilian painter, poet, essayist, dramatist and member of Parliament Abdias Nascimento, and Pakistani artist and designer Imran Mir.

Abstracting Parables is a manifestation of three distinct historical voices and artistic positions, each proposing unique understandings of how abstraction can be translated into multiple and complex languages. The exhibition brings together the works of Dutch-Jewish painter and composer Sedje Hémon (1923-2011), Afro-Brazilian painter, poet, essayist, dramatist, and political activist Abdias Nascimento (1914-2011), and Pakistani artist and designer Imran Mir (1950-2014).

Conceived as an exhibition with three in(ter)dependent chapters, Abstracting Parables is approached as a work of translation. In its meaning ‘to carry across’, the exhibition deliberates on translations of meaning to form, thoughts to symbols, symbols to language, and language to experiences.

Central to this exhibition is Hémon’s, Mir’s, and Nascimento’s relationships with abstraction, geometry, spiritualities, histories, and the way their works inherently challenge the confines of modernism–opening up a world of multiple modernisms. The exhibition highlights the artists’ multifaceted oeuvres across geographies and histories, as tales that assemble and interlink aesthetic, socio-political, spiritual, and scientific discourses.

By presenting these positions at the Stedelijk, the institution continues its critical engagement with the blind spots, historical gaps, and silences in its collection.


Sedje Hémon’s (1923-2011) artistic practice was a deep deliberation on natural sciences, as well as an exploration of other ways of knowing. Her work was strongly influenced by her lived experience as a Shoah survivor and a member of the resistance movement. Educated as a violinist, incarceration during WWII left Hémon physically unable to play, upon which she turned her attention to painting—without ever abandoning music.

This exhibition, which takes its title from her painting Emotion of Spirits, focuses on the work she produced in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, she developed an intricate method for translating her paintings into musical scores.

Hémon described her paintings as musical compositions, and their abstract forms are to be read as such—in relation to musical parameters such as duration, pitch, and timbre. Her visual works can actually be performed musically according to the system that she herself developed. Defiantly, Hémon worked to show the common origin and intersectionality of all arts and sciences, culminating in the development of a theory for the “integration of the arts.”

Around 1960, with the support of art historian Hans Jaffé, Deputy Director of the Stedelijk Museum, twenty drawings were donated by Hémon to the Stedelijk Museum. Although her work has been exhibited internationally, including at Documenta 14 (2017), this exhibition marks the first major presentation of Hémon’s work in the Netherlands.