Merijn Kavelaars (1985, The Netherlands) is a painter on a mission – for him, painting is a journey into a euphoric vortex that ends in explosions of colours, forms and magical creatures.
‘Fighting with colors and forms is my obsession, ecstasy and torture’
Both his consciousness and subconsciousness come together in a naive style that combines daily matters with a fairytale like narrative resulting in colorful, esoteric and playful worlds, which express an almost anarchistic degree of freedom.
His iconic figures combine bright colour patterns yet express and almost dark sense of humour – sunshine also creates shadows as we know.
Merijn is an autodidactic painter who started his career in 2009 in Amsterdam. He ran his own Studio/Gallery and rose to prominence through several live painting performances, exhibitions and collaborations with in particular high end fashion brands. In 2013 – feeling a thirst for new horizons, he moved to Shanghai.
Merijn uses different kinds of paint and applies many layers to create character and dept. He works on several paintings at a time. “I set down the first layer: one color, shape, figure, contrast or relief, and then I put the canvas away. Maybe for a week, a month, a year – until I see it again and it tells me: this is what should happen next. I feel more part of the painting when I work on the floor, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”
In applying his method, Merijn creates pieces that contain not only an outburst of creativity, but cover a whole period of his thoughts and feelings. “With every work I want to create a world I can get lost in. I want to be able to look at it endlessly, discover new meaning, fantasise about it and reflect on it. It’s a mirror for my soul, a painting that evolves with – and challenges me.”
Merijn currently lives and works in Shanghai. He previously exhibited his work in several museums such as the Van Gogh Museum, he won the Stolichnaya art contest and showed and sold his work in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Paris, Tehran and Amsterdam.
Curated by Lih-Lan Wong
No Man’s Art Gallery is honoured to present No Good Can Come of This, the first solo exhibition of Merijn Kavelaars in the Netherlands. Kavelaars first exhibited with NMAG in 2012 in Paris. When we invited him to join us for an exhibition in Shanghai a year later, he decided to take the opportunity to work in Shanghai for two months prior to the exhibition. From the first brush stroke, he experienced a creative energy he had previously not been able to channel, an endless source of inspiration that noticeably changed the works he created, and would even drastically change his life.
Kavelaars’ paintings visibly manifested a new direction. His work became stronger, his oeuvre found a focus and he became more and more conscious of his process.
The newfound inspiration was a strong factor in his decision to stay in Shanghai after the exhibition. He has been living and working from China for two years now. Kavelaars would occasionally return to the Netherlands, trying but failing to recreate that same creative energy he experiences in Shanghai. In the past two years his practice primarily focused on defining the parameters of creative freedom.
No Good Can Come of This was devised as an experiment. Can Kavelaars transport the creativity that seems to be induced by another city? Is he recreating elements of a creative freedom if he imposes circumstances like social isolation, loneliness and powerlessness? Can his works be as strong as they are in Shanghai?
Prior to this exhibition, Kavelaars confined himself within the exhibition space day and night for weeks. We brought him food and materials every week, but other contact with the outside world was strictly prohibited. Not a single corner in the space was off limits. The first two weeks of his stay he fought with the space. He felt like a little cat, meowing and crying through the space. Kavelaar worked, painted over it and worked on it again. You witness the traces of his process when looking at the different layers on the walls. In the last week Kavelaars suddenly realized that while he might have felt like a helpless cat, he had been living in a beastly manner. He decided to start all over again and invoke that primitive energy. The external impulses that fed him in Shanghai came from within.
Shanghai is omnipresent in No Good Can Come of This. The walls reflect his ambiguous position in China. A gagged man, a metaphor for not being able to naturally communicate and understand, or the Chinese – often sadistic – humour represented in textual elements like “Xiao Mi Mi” a local expression in which emphasis can change definition. No Good Can Come of This is a representation of Kavelaars’ figments, inventions and interpretations. An interplay of daily life and fiction wherein the process is as important as the result.
For inquiries, please contact curator Lih-Lan Wong: firstname.lastname@example.org | +31 (0)6 3755 0132
29.01 – 07.02 | 11h-18h Daily
28.01 | 18h – 23h
Art in the Dark
04.02 | 20h – 22h
Chinese New Year drinks
07.02 | 15h – 18h
Location: Kinkerstraat 23, Amsterdam
(for more detailed information about the works please contact email@example.com)
空斯文里 Kongsiwenli (Empty Gentle Lilong)
The fireflies gathering (70 Artists – 70 inhabitants)
CURATOR: Jeremy Cheval
Shikumen lilong 石库门里弄 are unique structures to Shanghai. They are places of diverse inhabitants, histories, territories, interactions, rituals, creativity, vegetation, politics, emotions, animals, births and deaths… In the Lilong buildings and people become an interlinked living machine.
In Siwenli斯文里 most of the inhabitants have been relocated (被动迁人) leaving the alleyways almost empty 空 , the west side is destroyed. For one 空 night painters, dancers, writers, photographers, actors, craftsman, researchers, architects and urban planners appropriate the spaces of Dong Siwenli 东斯文里.
Kongsiwenli空斯文里 it is part of the art city festival SUSAS, 上海城市空间艺术节.
Recently Merijn started a new project called ‘Crack Mansion’. The idea behind this name is that everything is possible in spaces like this, he can throw paint, use water gun, paint the floor, you name it. Merijn want’s to give a totally new meaning to the ‘Mansions’ that most of the time had there best time. the raw environment enables him to work rough and direct.
‘I just started without a plan, I love to work in a big scale like this, it ables me to work directly from my intuiting because I don’t allow myself to think to much, I need to move on. Everything is possible in this space, that gives me my the freedom’
Merijn is using similar techniques as they use for Chinese Calligraphy, for all the projects he is using Chinese ink and the traditional Chinese brush pen. With this technique it allows him to work extremely fast, dynamic and radical.
‘Chinese painting and calligraphy distinguish themselves from other cultural arts because they emphasize motion and are charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, “Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients.’
Alter Showroom Presents; Merijn Kavelaars Solo Exhibition:
Curated by Emmelie Koster (No Mans Art Gallery);
The ‘No Gloves’ exhibition features a selection of works by Dutch artist Merijn Kavelaars. The exhibition focuses on a significant yet peculiar development in his oeuvre. Kavelaars and I have worked together for the past four years on various exhibitions of his work in Europe, South Africa and China and it is now for the first time that he demonstrates a clear and consistent visual reference to the art history of his home country, the Netherlands.
A few months ago Kavelaars invited me to his studio and showed me the works that he created since he moved to Shanghai last year. A new stream had entered his body of work, one characterized by bold outlines, strong colours and an uncivilized expression that was reminiscent of the CoBrA artists late 40s in the Netherlands. He had just finished developing the Kavelaars Alphabet, visible for example in the works As a fish on the Dry and the title work of the exhibition No Gloves. Like the CoBrA artists, who invoked freshly created myths and folklore to forge new symbols, Kavelaars seems to be sourcing images/characters from his new Chinese surrounding and reinterprets them in an attempt to make sense of it.
What I find so remarkable is that these references to his ‘visual home’ have only manifested since Kavelaars moved to Shanghai, away from his hometown of Amsterdam. In conversation with the artist he described to me the impetus behind the new direction of his work. It strongly reminded me of what Corneille once said about CoBrA: ‘We had only one desire: to get out of this too tight corset and start a gigantic disorder’. Where Corneille was referring to established norms of artistic expression, the tight corset Kavelaars seems to be wearing is the feeling of complete detachment he experiences here. Through his paintings, he violently liberates himself and in the midst of this violence, the gloves have come off.
On the 30th of May 2015 at the Dutch Days in Shanghai Kavelaars did a Collaboration with Mars Architects. He painted a big round table that they designed. It was a action painting performance. Kavelaars used Chinese Ink and used the traditional hairpen to finish the work. The table will be donated to a school in Shanghai.
For a collaboration with Alter Concept Store in Shanghai Kavelaars made a serie of hand painted, oversized, unisex sweaters and cardigans. Every item is unique, numbered and signed. The text is inspired on Dutch quote’s twisted to English combined with illustrations.