Weathered, faded, faded or discolored objects fascinate me because time has left its mark on them. Using these objects in combination with geometrically abstract forms creates a visual language that refers to itself independently of reality. 'Old' thus inspires me to new. In my collages I work with mixed media:found paper and cardboard, tape, gesso, acrylic paint, marker, pencil, ballpoint... focusing on form, line, color, composition and structure. As I am increasingly seeking minimalist design in my work, I was curious to see what an artist in residence in a building by architect Gerrit Rietveld ("I love simple things so awesomely") might mean for my visual work.
On the road to PE5
The fastest public transportation connection between my hometown of Huizen and PE5 in Utrecht is the Transdev rush-hour bus line 200 from Huizen via the A27 to Utrecht Science Park. In Utrecht, I get off at bus stop Rijnsweerd Zuid on Archimedeslaan across from the former building of the Stichting Opleiding Leraren, better known as "the SOL," where I took the Teacher of Drawing and Handicrafts course. The now vacant building has been on the demolition list for years to make way - as depicted on a billboard - for a new student campus with two thousand residences, stores and restaurants (due to the nitrogen crisis, however, construction has been postponed for the time being.) From the bus stop, I walk through the Rijnsweerd Zuid residential area to PE5 at Erasmuslaan 5.
At the beginning of this short walk, I pass the famous Woonhuis de Waal by architect Ton Alberts, his first organic architecture design in 1978. With the commissions that would follow, Alberts and his architectural firm Alberts & Van Huut became known as the leading representative of organic architecture in the Netherlands.
As a student, I was able to closely follow the construction process of Woonhuis de Waal because the construction site was directly across the street from the SOL building. In 2001, due to leakage problems, the unusual residence was partially covered with titanium plates. This changed the appearance considerably and instead of the original nickname "the Sand Castle," it was given the new nickname "the Monkey Rock. Walking further into the residential area, I am almost at my destination after about ten minutes, because I see the characteristic roof terraces of the residential block on the Erasmuslaan sticking out above the trees.
Center for art and architecture
PE5 - Post Erasmuslaan 5 is a center for art and architecture housed in a residential block designed by architect Gerrit Rietveld in 1931, located opposite the iconic Rietveld Schröder House. In terms of architectural style, the homes no longer belong to De Stijl, but to the Nieuwe Bouwen movement. Rietveld began to focus more on efficiency after De Stijl. This fitted in with the Functionalism that emerged in Europe, called Nieuwe Bouwen in the Netherlands. Characteristic of this architectural style were the large windows, thin steel frames, flat roofs and white plastered facades. Today, the address Erasmuslaan 5 is home to several creative agencies that combine knowledge and experience in architecture, restoration, remodeling and interior design. For example, the founder of PE5 and director of Asnova Architecture, architect (bna) Ronald Willemsen has his workplace there.
Under the name PE5, exhibitions, tours, lectures and house concerts are organized in this national monument, and for a number of years there has been the possibility for artists, architects, designers and creators to be artist-in-residence for a period of time. During such a period one can work, do research and be inspired by the architecture, formal language and ideas of Gerrit Rietveld and by the creative working atmosphere present in PE5.
On the first floor is art gallery Bos Fine Art, specializing in geometric abstract art. In addition to regular exhibitions, this gallery hosts artists-in-residence group exhibitions every two years.
In preparation for the artist-in-residence period, I first studied Rietveld's language of form and thought by reading a lot about it. Then I joined the Rietveldhuizen VVE and visited several Rietveld houses and art pavilions. I also visited architect Bertus Mulder, who worked with Gerrit Rietveld for several years and later restored several Rietveld buildings, including the iconic Rietveld Schröder House and the Rietveld Pavilion in Otterlo.
I have visited the Rietveld Schröder House before, but this time I had the opportunity to get a unique private tour outside regular opening hours from Natalie Dubois, curator of applied art and design at the Centraal Museum Utrecht. I could not have wished for a better preparation for the artist-in-residence period! While setting up my workspace on the second floor at the back of PE5, I found a number of sample books in a cupboard, which Ronald Willemsen allowed me to use for= my visual work. A great start for an artist making abstract collages from found paper and cardboard.
Room for new ideas
In order to do justice to the principles of light, space and sobriety used by "space artist" Gerrit Rietveld, while working I focused on the simplest possible design by using geometrically abstract forms and a limited color palette. By placing them in asymmetrical compositions, with the shapes often positioned at right angles like windmill sails, I tried to achieve a clear balance of delineation and openness.
In the more than four weeks that I worked in PE5, eleven collages were created in this way. During the preparation of the work period, I had noticed that in addition to drawn design sketches as an initial visualization of his design ideas, Rietveld also regularly made simple design models from pieces of cardboard. This fact challenged me to make a number of three-dimensional collages with collected small cardboard boxes.
Looking back, I am pleased with the outcome of this artist-in-residence period. Rietveld's language of form has successfully inspired me to a more minimalist design. Working for a month in the home designed by architect Rietveld literally gave me space for new ideas, forms and meaning.
Artists-in-residence group exhibition
Under the title MAAK RUIMTE, visual artists Gerard van der Horst, Ernst van der Vecht, André Brocatus and Cor van der Meijden exhibited their visual work created during an artist-in-residence period in the gallery space of PE5 Post Erasmuslaan 5 Utrecht from February 10 to March 5, 2023. MAAK RUIMTE refers to the fact that for these four artists the house designed by architect Gerrit Rietveld has been their "making space," the place where they made work as artist-in-residence. And the title refers to what space artist Rietveld saw as the matter of the architect: space.