No Good Can Come Of This (Amsterdam) 1 / 12

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.