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, Eindhoven and Amsterdam.
Kavelaars painted the two big pillars at the entrance of the Hotel le Marquis. The main inspiration for the work he made is the prototype of dandy; Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde was a big inspiration for many people, and still. He was a writer and poet. The left pillar is filled with dandy guys, they look up to Oscar but never could be the person they wish to be. Oscar Wilde is in the right pillar, big moustache, high had, animals flying around him, even he let the Eifel tower fly. It’s a reflection on the society we are living in. The Ego mind is trying to level others, but is it possible? Is it neccecary?
‘Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, there passions a quotation’. Oscar Wilde
Painted table top for Chinese Collector
Commissioned wall (12 m2) painting for Dutch collector.
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 ‘No Gloves’
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 the playful illustrations from Kavelaars.
In 2011 Kavelaars created a serie of custom painted AllStars for a collaboration with TrendShoes