Tuesday, 17 November 2009

An Artist's Setting

Neither architecture or nature have impinged on me much before, especially not simultaneously.


Sat in the warmth of the indoors, I am fooled by sight into believing I am outside. I feel the space and freedom I’ve been searching for in order to create art that is a fluent and effortless expression. Content at the work I have achieved, I feel at peace and thank nature and good well-considered architecture openly.


The Kröller Müller Museum resembles the work of Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright in material and form. Often attributed back to Bauhaus ideas and forms, its assemblage is inorganic – lines are humanly straight and echoed throughout by means of exposed brick, ridged ceilings, and thick industrious black vertical beams that divide the planes of floor-to-ceiling glass. By description it would sound as though it would bicker uncontrollably with its environment of woodland and parkland. However, these polished delicate veils are all that keeps you from the beauty of autumn’s falling leaves (as opposed to falling water) and that ensuringly insulates you from November’s brisk breeze. It is only when you catch the reflection of a passing visitor that your mind takes you back to the seat on which you are sat, and the concrete on which it is placed. Had I been stood on the outer side of this sheer glass sheet, drawing this same scene I believe the outcome would have been visually colder and stiffer.


Environment is everything. My geography teacher would, throughout the four years I was taught by her, return to this point – it was her fascination and she was convinced of the theory that: a badly designed block of buildings would boost a bloke’s bad behaviour. As a result she would endeavour to persuade us at every given opportunity to sway our career paths towards town planning, architecture, or interior design. She was obsessed with space.


The contemporary artist, Gijs Frieling, winner of the Dutch ‘Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen’ and exhibiting at the Cobra Art Museum currently, said: “[I hope to] create a place for [these] reflective and performative aspects [that] visitors will inevitably feel welcomed by the space and will quietly be able to experience the entire instillation.” This is my installation – a museum in a wooded national park. This blog is my reflection, and my interrupted drawing (, rudely interrupted by my reflections,) is the performative aspect. Unfortunately I wasn’t as keen on his work as I am this, and his ideals…


Touring Amsterdam by bike, I came across a small building suspended by cantilever over the canal not far from the centre of town. This exquisite bite-sized building was not dislike David Blane’s Plexiglas case that hung over the south bank of the River Thames. It emerged with the energy and boldness of a thunderbird rocket out of the Tracy Island swimming pool. Again here there was this contrast between the bustle of life on the streets: of bikes storming along at the rate of cars, and the emptiness of the canals, which besides from the unpreventable process of precipitation, are utterly still. I could not think of a more beneficial and rewarding function for this piece of architecture than an artist studio. The affect this environment has had over the way I perform as an artist, one could only assume this is what this building is designed to be. That is, of course, if form in modern architecture, always reflects function.


This makes me understand why so many artists have moved to Paris over the last 150 years because Paris had become famous for its freedom; and moreover why Van Gogh wanted to move to the South of France and Gauguin likewise to Tahiti.


This piece of architecture can be so highly praised because despite clear contrast, it only emphasises the beauty of nature. The trees, these OAPs of nature, dwarf the single story construct. From the exterior it is no statement – it humbles itself in order to give the woodland the glory. The rich colours of fallen autumn leaves lift the limited pallet of the interior. The heavy black beams, frame the beautiful masterpiece that is nature itself. As I read, Van Gogh once stated, “These canvasses will tell you what I can’t say that I’ve considered healthy and fortifying about the countryside.”


This museum, if near Amsterdam is worth a visit. Not only for its content: Christiaan Bastiaans, Auguste Rodin, Claes Oldenburg, Henry Von-Velde, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh (to name but a few from which I have been distracted while writing this); but also its space. There is a large area covered by its foundations, of long corridors connecting a spreading mass that is like a sprawling city, or perhaps more appropriately, a dandelion redistributing its growth. I just hope it’s not too busy when you come.


The Kröller Müller museum is in Otterlo in the central Netherlands. Also mentioned was the Gijs Frieling and Paris Central exhibitions at the Cobra Art Museum in Amstelveen, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

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