Kiki van Eijk, The Joy of a Playing Child

Interview with Kiki van Eijk

Eindhoven, 19.09.2016

Kiki van Eijk is an artist, craftsman and designer who does not follow any trends. She is incredibly versatile, working with fabric, ceramics, glass, metal, wood and other diverse materials with ease and control. In her design she fuses art and craft, knowing she can turn a loose drawing into an object that cannot only be functional but also artistically appealing. When I think about her design it is immediately clear that she is a creator who intuitively knows what is wrong and what is right for each piece.

A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Kiki concentrates primarily on her own collections, but also has worked on projects for, among others, Design Academy Eindhoven, MOOOI, Häagen-Dazs, Bernhardt Design, Forbo Flooring, Venice Projects, Hermès, Nodus, Rijksmuseum and a number of private collectors.

KK: How do you define design?

KvE: First of all, I think design has only existed since the Industrial Revolution, because before that it was artists who would make everything. They would make paintings but they would also do special commissions like a lamp or a chandelier for a church. So for me, in the past artists were also designers. Design is about creating things; it always starts from a concept and some sort of research, and the end result should be something that communicates without having to tell the whole story.

KK: Are you a designer or an artist?

KvE: I always find that a bit of a difficult question because I don’t care what label people use. I just create things. I happened to graduate from the Design Academy but I could just as well have gone to art school. I found the Design Academy more suitable. It’s not that different from an art school, though—only a bit better organized. But before I went to the Design Academy I used to have an atelier where I would paint on canvas and sculpt things.

KK: What is it like to design in Holland? Why is Dutch design so good?

KvE: The most important thing is the mentality. Regardless of what the objects look like, there is a kind of free mentality here. If you look at our history and what the landscape looks like, we always have had this problem with water. We’re below sea level and the land is very flat so we have had to think of inventive ways to cope with and live with this. We never have had natural resources; we had tulips and potatoes but nothing else we could actually export. So we have had to cooperate with others. This is where the polder model comes from. The Dutch always try to find ways to make everybody happy. As for design, in Eindhoven, for example, we had a lot of production companies and they all needed designers. That is why the Design Academy was built, to educate people to design for the companies. What’s nice about Eindhoven is that there is also an industrial area where people literally still have space to be creative.

KK: How does Dutch design affected the way you work, the way you think about design?

KvE: The main thing is the big freedom in Dutch design. Even if you look at DROOG design, which is quite minimalistic and quite dry and maybe a bit strict in a way, it still feels quite free.

KK: Do you consider yourself a responsible designer?

KvE: I always find that a difficult question because in a way everything humans make is bad for nature, it’s something extra. But on the other hand everything I make, I make with honest intention. I spend a lot of time making it and I know people won’t throw it away after two years. They only buy it when they fall in love with it, and they keep it. And if for some reason they don’t want it anymore, they give it away to someone. I hate throwing things away. I use natural materials; I’ve never used plastic, for example. I’m not saying I won’t but if I had to, I would use bio plastic. It’s a difficult question because everything can be made better. But, for example, if I were to design for a mass production company, I would want to know where they produced, the working conditions of employees and what materials they would use. In that sense I think I’m responsible. In general, this is something we need to challenge ourselves on; we all need to take responsibility.

KK: So what would you like to achieve with your design?

KvE: My goal is to produce things that people will buy and want to keep for a lifetime. We can never be sure, but we know that a lot of people buy my work for that reason. Also, I don’t think you have to make things that sell and that everybody can afford. For example Civilized Primitives is a very expensive collection to make and sell, but I found it important to make because there’s a message behind the project and when people see it in a museum or gallery or a fair they can understand it without having to own the pieces.

KK: Your design is quite exclusive and perhaps beyond the reach for most of us. You are a designer but your work is artistic and quite conceptual. Do you think it has the power to change the way people think?

KvE: In general I think nobody can change the way people think. You can inspire people. It is not my intention to teach, although there’s always a hidden message behind my work. It’s more about inspiring people.

KK: Conversation Piece is one of the projects with a strong message.

KvE: It’s a protest against very cheaply and badly made industrial products, but it’s also against very exclusive gallery pieces. It’s about the clash between the two, which are also the two worlds I’m in- between as a designer. You always have to question yourself. No matter if you’re asked to design for industry or a gallery, you have to ask yourself what is the intention behind the work. And this is what I tried to communicate in Conversation Piece.

KK: When you design, what are the key elements you take into account? What is important?

KvE: Intuition, I follow my intuition. Behind it now is a lot of knowledge, and I use that subconsciously. When I use color or different materials, I do so by gut feeling. That is what’s guiding me. And also my experience; I have a lot of experience with different materials, different techniques.

KK: Let’s talk about the transitions you make between different techniques and processes. Tell me about the experimentation and scale models, about making the same objects using different techniques and also about different materials. What are the challenges you face each time you change technique or material?

KvE: Each time you change the technique you have to start from scratch in a way and try things out. When I first did bronze casting, maybe seventeen years ago, I did it myself I learned how to make bronze and aluminum molds myself and how to think in positive and negative shapes. And because I’d had this experience, doing ceramics was much easier. I knew already how to work with positive and negative, and pouring wax into plaster molds is not much different from pouring clay into ceramic molds. And because of that I was not afraid to use materials that I’d never used before.

KK: In your work you draw a lot of inspiration from the past.

KvE: I appreciate the past but at the same time I also appreciate things that are modern. In our house we have weird things we find in antique stores and flee markets, but also very modern pieces. I think in the end it’s all about appreciating the good things in life.

When I was working on Civilized Primitives I was interested in the first products that humankind made, like for example how they started to shape stones to use as knifes; and then they were able to cut the skin of an animal. They were also able to make clothing and fire. And with fire they could cook, so they made a special type of pot that could resist the heat. Similarly, at first they drank from their hands but later they started to use bowls. They had a special type—a special shape—of container to keep water in. That’s how I came to be interested in survival and our basic needs, and how you would construct something if you had no machines, if you were lost in the woods. Now we live in luxury; everything runs automatically. At the same time, if you think about big, natural disasters, about what would happen if we ran out of resources, this makes you aware of our basic needs and what you would need to do if there were no electricity or running water.

KK: You said you collect objects from antique shops and flee markets. What are you looking for in an object?

KvE: I like objects with a human touch, that are handmade.

KK: What value do old techniques and handcrafted objects bring to your work?

KvE: I think they make it more authentic, more genuine. It’s being able to invent things, not only to use the techniques as we know them, but also to experiment with existing techniques and use them in a slightly different way. For example I worked in Murano with master glass blowers. When something is mouth-blown, each piece is authentic and slightly different. In the Floating Frames collection each object in the series is also different; they all become their own characters. And I like that.

KK: How important is it to combine artisan techniques with new technologies? What challenges have you found there?

KvE: It’s not always important to combine them. But it’s interesting and challenging because you can make a bridge between the past and the future, like I did in the project Physical Interactions, the three light sculptures. The sculptures were made by hand in the workshop but there’s high technology inside. When people see those light sculptures they don’t know there’s a lot of technology inside. When they realize they can turn the light on by blowing on a sculpture or can activate the dimmer by covering one part of it with a hand, they start to wonder, to laugh a little, to think about how it was made and how it works technically. This project shows that high-tech, mass-produced products don’t need to look sleek and boring; they really can have an identity of their own.

KK: What are your latest inspirations? What are you working on now?

KvE: I am working for Bisazza, an Italian mosaic company. I am designing flooring and a mosaic wall, and it’s all inspired by nature, by what is growing between the tiles—by weed. I want to show that weed is actually very beautiful if you look closely. Actually, it could be nice for a publication. It’s a big production for a commercial brand but it still has a very genuine feeling. I liked that they were very enthusiastic about the theme, which you could say is not very appealing; but the way we did it, it looks beautiful. It shows the beauty of nature. I’m also working on a new concept for Hermès, a new project in glass, and some new carpet designs. And I’m working for a Dutch brand called Social Label. They’ve invited Dutch designers to design something that can be made in a social workshop that is staffed entirely by disabled people. I’m working on lighting made with leather that is leftover from shoe companies. The people in the workshop will make it all by hand. It’s a lot of work but the nice thing is that there needs to be a lot of work because they need to work on something all the time. Normally if you design something for a brand it should not take too much time because otherwise it will become too expensive to produce; but in this workshop they don’t count the time, they only count the amount of material. They actually want to have something that takes a lot of time and involves many stages in the production process. It’s going to be presented during Dutch Design Week and also next year in Milan. So it’s a very nice project because the people in the workshop, the disabled people, are really proud and they work well together. In addition, I’m also doing a couple of projects for private collectors, so right now I have a good mix of challenges.

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Written by Kinga Kowalczyk for Design Friends catalogue published by Design Friends Luxembourg. DF catalogue was launched during Kik¡’s lecture at Mudam‘s auditorium on November 23.

H. Craig Hanna, a retrospective at the MNHA Luxembourg 

Briefly Noted

H. Craig Hanna at the MNHA Luxembourg

 

…And then you look at a Rembrandt, it’s just… You see where you have to go… Miles and miles of work ahead of you… There are other aspects of making a great painting than just the skill involved in trying to be an old master. If you see a technique before the painting, it is a problem. … How could my stuff look different? … I finally discovered plexiglass and I started to paint with ink. It changed everything for me. Underneath this chaotic ink painting that I do, there is a knowledge of a figure… Years of drawing… I have this visual sensitivity… Certain colors together will produce this incredible emotion.

H. Craig Hanna

Inside the Ink-the life and art of H. Craig Hanna, an audiovisual essay by Willy Crank 

Francis Picabia, a retrospective at Kunsthaus Zürich

Briefly Noted

On the occasion of Festspiele Zürich 2016

With Francis Picabia’s retrospective Kunsthaus Zurich celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Dada movement that was created in Zurich.

 

Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction.

Francis Picabia

 

[Some drawing I made at the museum.]

 

REVELATIONS

Do not go outside, return into yourself; it is in the interiority of the person where the truth dwells.

–Saint Augustine

Human beings are destined for contemplation.

–Éric Chenal

Revelations is the title of a humble and beautifully executed project and exhibition at the National Museum of History and Art (NMHA) in Luxembourg. In 2013 the museum commissioned Éric Chenal to take pictures during the renovation of the museum’s new wing. Chenal’s photographs depict entrances, windows, walls half covered with paint and markings, and other ordinary objects and parts of the buildings. The colors are muted with occasional bursts of light blue and green, vivid red and orange. Chenal describes his first encounter with the site as challenging. It didn’t have a lot of appeal and he admitted in a conversation we had that he was unable to stay long. He didn’t feel welcome. He would only photograph the buildings when nobody was around and it was quiet, because this was the only way he could enter into dialog with the empty space. But as it turned out, the project became a spiritual experience that not only started, but was also shared, and had its continuation within that space.

Chenal divides his time between Lorrain and Luxembourg. His career as a photographer started some twelve years ago and his main focus is commercial photography. In 2009 he began one of his first personal projects called Out of Breath followed by Esprit du Lieu (Nature of Space), and White Inside, which many think was inspired by Brian O’Doherty’s Inside the White Cube. He photographs spaces in moments of transition: old churches being restored, contemporary art centers between exhibitions, houses in renovation. The key elements that thread through his work are the presence of light and a sense of being in the moment. He doesn’t stage anything; he uses natural light, and stays open, unassuming, and respectful. His aim is to let the place reveal itself. It is an organic and intuitive process. While working on Revelations he wasn’t interested in the museum’s past or future, he aimed to capture the here and now. The immediate relationship with the place, the dialog he maintained with the site revealed sublime aspects of the project. The camera became Chenal’s tool in uncovering something beyond measurement or calculation, something that can be perceived within oneself.

In this photographic and spiritual search Chenal has found inspiration and guidance in Jean-Louis Chrétien’s latest philosophical work, L’Espace Intérieur (The Interior Space), a book which combines elements of practical philosophy and Christian theology. Chrétien analyzes texts of Saint Augustine, Saint Teresa of Ávila, Origen, Dante, Baudelaire, and Freud among others. Chenal was particularly interested in the idea of representing what Saint Augustine calls the interiority of a person, in other words, the human soul as a space, cell, temple, castle, or room, where it can stand face-to-face with God.

To discuss the concept of Chenal’s project I met with him at the Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain. It’s 10:30 in the morning, the museum is still closed but I can get in to meet Éric. He wears a grey linen suit and welcomes me with a warm smile. There’s something modest and direct about him. The museum is between exhibitions so it’s noisy and full of people. Chenal seems to know everybody; he greets and shakes hands with the museum’s staff. We retreat to the Casino’s kitchen and sit by a small table. We talk about his commercial work and personal projects. Then I show him a selection of images from Revelations that resonate with me. It turns out they are also significant to Éric. “Tell me something about the entrance blocked by a big piece of play wood?” (Figure 1), I ask. “It’s a veil, the light is behind, you see, you’re in contact with it. You see how to get out”, replies Éric. When we look at the image of a pillar covered with a piece of semi transparent plastic (Figure 2) the first thing that comes to my mind is an offering pillar. When Éric sees this photograph he talks about generosity and sharing. Next we look at the image of a vivid red stain on a wall surrounded by patches of white paint (Figure 3). There is a moment of silence before we say anything. “It’s about how to accept the given moment”, observes Éric.

The exhibition space is intimate and transmits a sense of ascetic emptiness (Figures 4, 5). The design of the installation is simple and conveys the meditative nature of the project. The first room is an homage to Jean Louis Chrétien’s The Interior Space. The six wooden pillars scattered around the room have six quotes printed on top. The quotes come from Heraclitus, Pascal, St Augustine, St Ignatius de Loyola, Hugh of Saint Victor, and St Teresa of Ávila. These quotes, as well as a short text on the wall and the leaflet with a map, frame the exhibition. The pieces of text are meant to be a guide when you are exploring the rooms; they also introduce a contemplative mood and can help the viewer to understand the artwork. The exhibition’s layout is circular; you begin and end in the first room.

Can silence and simplicity give a profound experience of beauty? Can a state of being in the moment equate to being happy? To appreciate silence you need to disconnect from the usual rhythm of life. The message has to play itself rather than be played. Behind the words and images in Revelations there’s something that cannot be seen until it reveals itself. You just have to stay open and give yourself time. The exhibition doesn’t impose on you; it has the quality of a discovery. In an interview after the exhibition White Inside Éric said something that is also relevant to Revelations, “Photography taught me that everything is a gift. It is all offered to us. I’m just here to look at the light, to try not to search for it…”

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Éric Chenal (Figure 1)
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Éric Chenal (Figure 2)
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Éric Chenal (Figure 3)
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Éric Chenal (Figure 4)
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Éric Chenal (Figure 5)

“Atmosphere Rooms” for Philippe Apeloig, Paris

The Typorama finished a couple of weeks ago and I am still thinking about the walls of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris filled with Apeloig’s fonts, Metro-size posters and the music used for his animations composed by Barbatuques, Iannis Xanakis, Maurice Ravel and Laurent Rochelle, among others. Typorama, the exhibition and the catalogue, presents the panorama of Philippe Apeloig’s work which is conceptual, functional and artfully crafted.

For me, the most important thing in the exhibition were Apeloig’s sources of inspiration, his Jewish roots, the fact that his grandparents came from Kazimierz Dolny in Poland, his fascination with movies like, 8 ½, Orfeo Negro and Battleship Potemkin.

The way Philippe Apeloig presented 30 years of his work made me think of Alexander Dorner’s “Atmosphere Rooms”.

Across the Atlantic, the German curator Alexander Dorner was experimenting with a different approach to explaining the relationship between art, design and architecture as director of the Landesmuseum in Hanover. Since the mid 1920s he had used pieces from its archive to depict the cultural history of particular eras by creating what he called “Atmosphere Rooms”. The grand finale was the Raum der Gegenwart, or Room of Today, for which Dorner commissioned Moholy-Nagy to create an immersive sequences of images depicting glimpses of contemporary art, architecture, design, theater and sport with screening of experimental Soviet films including Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera”.  

Alice Rawsthorn, Hello World

In this post I gathered some quotes and images which are glimpses of culture, design and art that I wanted to dedicate to Monsieur Apeloig.

I begin with a small town in Poland, Kazimierz Dolny. Then I move on to Malevich’s Black Square, Dutch Design, Wolfgang Weingart’s Line Pictures for Armin Hofmann, Phillippe Petit’s tightrope walking at the World Trade Center in 1974, and, finally, Pina Bausch’s Nelken from 1982.

Acoustic Walk

Kazimierz Dolny in Poland used to be a place of two cultures and two religions, Catholic and Jewish. They existed next to each other till the Soviet and German occupation almost wiped the Jewish out of the town, out of the whole country. But, there are people, young people who want to remember that Jewish culture influenced Polish culture and that it is an important part of our heritage.

Jaśmina Wójcik is a Polish multimedia artist. In 2011 she created the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny. It was a project with audio guides in which she used stories about Jewish that don’t live in Kazimierz any more, but are still present in the memory of its inhabitants.

…the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny consists of prints of Jaśmina Wójcik’s drawings hung on the facades of houses. The drawings are the central part of the project, and create the points on the walk’s map. The path is created by places – existing or not – where Jews used to live (e.g. the cheder, the mikveh, the Tzadik house, the synagogue, the kosher slaughterhouse). Each participant gets an MP3 player, a map and an instruction. The MP3 player becomes a personal guide.This is a personal and alternative way of touring around the town–through something that does not exist anymore, or what remained in a very small scale. Yet it constitutes a very important part of the town’s history and heritage. The project aims at creating a universal message relating also to contemporary events. In their headphones the participants hear real memories of the pre-war life in Kazimierz Dolny (archived by Bożena Gałuszewska and the Brama Grodzka Center – NN Theatre in Lublin). The town used to be bicultural – Poles and Jews where neighbours here. After WWII the Jewish community vanished completely. The project is an expression of memory about them. Of respect. Of preserving their presence… of their metaphysical return…

http://www.akustycznyspacer.pl

Black Square

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A section of Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich exhibited for the first time at the 0.10 exhibition (via Wikipedia)

The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915 … the placement of the suprematist paintings suggested the way icons were hung; … Black Square, which was, with total explicitness presented as an icon, or rather, in the position of an icon.

Igor Zabel on The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915

Dutch Design

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Theo van Doesburg, alphabet design, 1919

Van Doesburg’s upper-case alphabet was constructed from vertical and horizontal slabs of the same thickness and could be stretched vertically and horizontally to force texts to fit any format. Neither aesthetic nor legibility were major considerations, and the assumption that conveying information is a primary objective of typography as of marginal concern. Perhaps Moholy-Nagy was referring to Van Doesburg when he wrote that ‘clarity is the first prerequisite of all typography. For the sake of legibility the message must never suffer from a priori aesthetics. The letter types must never be forced into a pre-planned form, for instance into a square’. Yet, as demonstrated by the cover for the published 1920 Antwerp lecture Klassiek Barok Modern, Van Doesburg could use his alphabet quite effectively.

Dutch Graphic Design: A Century of Innovation by Alston W. Purvis andCees W. De Jong

Wolfgang Weingart

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The Line Pictures for Hofmann by Wolfgang Weingart

Not able to sit still during Hofmann’s class for an entire day, and to avoid having to draw lines with a ruling pen, I found refuge in the typeshop. There I was in my element. In a thin, square slab of wood I drilled one hundred holes, a grid of ten by ten, into which I then screwed one hundred L-hooks. With this construction it was easy to turn and twist the hooks into any desired direction or pattern. The technical problem of designing the Line Pictures for Hofmann was solved. By securing my construction in the bad of the letterpress I could print many variations by adjusting the height of selected hooks to the exact height of standard metal type. The hooks of the grid not intended to print were screwed deeper into the wood, too low to be inked by the rollers.

Weingart: Typography

Tightrope Walking at the World Trade Center, New York, 1974

Petit was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass and received a quick sentence doing a free show for children in Central Park.

Chris Kelly, CBS, New York

 

 

Nelken, Pina Bausch, 1982

Nelken-Lutz_Foerster-c_Maarten_Vanden_Abeele

What inspires me is the fact that I learn how to stop to look at things at one point. You need to learn how to seek, not to look and then you’ll refresh your eye, then you can meditate more about what you can do. That’s the way to find the best inspiration. … It has to be playful.

 

Philippe Apeloig

 

 

Hyperlink

hauskonstructiv6510

Museum Haus Konstruktiv presents an art project with audio guides envisioned by Delphine Chapuis-Schmitz . For this project, Delphine has chosen excerpts from artists’ writing, literature, philosophy and dictionary entries. The texts do not describe the exhibition currently on show (Victor Vasarely), they are inspired by the museum itself, the rooms and the collection. This project is an interactive game between the artist and the visitors in a place that is one of a kind.

 The line is a means to mediate the quality or timbre of a situation, and has a structure which is quick and abstract and more or less thinkable, but it’s the tonality or, if you want, wholeness of a situation that is what I’m trying to get at.

Fred Sandback via minimalissimo

The text number 65 made me think of Fred Sandback whose first retrospective of drawings can be seen in Kunstmuseum Winterthur from 10th May.

Marian Bantjes, Ed Emberley, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor

What Marian Bantjes, Ed Emberley, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor have in common? They are passionate about what they do, they always move forward and they are true to themselves. Recently I’ve been exploring a collection of documentaries on lynda.com. The quotes below come from three documentaries I’ve watched a couple of days ago, and these were: Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist; Ed Emberley, Children’s Book Illustrator and Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor: This is not photography.

Marian Bantjes dirt collection.
Marian Bantjes’s dirt collection.

You do what you’re told, and you do what you’re told over and over again, and eventually you learn. You learn what is the right way and the wrong way to do things. I mean, that’s one of the things I like about typography is that there is a right way and a wrong way. There are variations within that. There are personal tastes and various things, but you can really–you can screw it up.

Everything I do, I do for love.

So my goal at that time really was to just keep putting stuff out there, keep making things, keep exploring these ideas I was having, honing my skills, and just kind of stay busy during this time I wasn’t actually getting any commission work.

Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist

This image was inspired by Ed Emberley's drawing pages.
This image was inspired by Ed Emberley’s drawing pages.

Not everybody has to be an artist. The big thing is feeling good about yourself. That’s more important than the art part.

I don’t want the children to fail. The most important thing is that they are amused. The second most important thing is they do not fail.

I was having fun doing it this way, and the pages are made to be fun. And I think if I have fun, the fun is transferred to my listener. If I’m bored, that boredom is going to transfer to somebody.

Ed Emberley, Children’s Book Illustrator

BlackBirdSelectionWeb3BlackBirdSelectionWeb3

The dominant aesthetic, well, what we learned or we thought was the dominant aesthetic–it probably still is–is the decisive moment. That was coined by Cartier-Bresson. I tried to imply that those same decisive moments can occur in the context of the dark room, that the dark room was essentially a visual research lab. If you just do the mental gear shifting required to think that way, because I’ve had decisive moments when suddenly, whoa, that tree will blend to that building. Now, that’s a decisive moment.

Edgar Western said he defined art as the outer expression of inner growth. … I can’t define art any better today, but my work has changed. Art is not something to be learned apart from books and rules. It is a living thing that depends on full participation. As we grow in life, so we grow in art, each of us in his unique way.

Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor: This is not photography