Blick in die Welt hinter der Kunst

In conversation with Erwin Meijer; Master of the line
ERWIN MEIJER / Mar 15th, 2017

When you look at Erwin Meijer's oeuvre, it becomes clear that it is a master's hand. His sculptures carry a universal beauty. Work with a clear and own signature; A style that characterizes by soft shapes and sharp lines. Technically perfect. When observing his sculptures, you feel understatement and at the same time the power of command. Meijer seems to want to convey something with his work in a subtle and suggestive way, and does that with conviction. Recently he made a new series of interesting sculptures. Reason to get acquainted with this sculptor, from the Netherlands, with a touch of Indian blood.

Erwin Meijer is coming in for the interview. Juvenile, modest and a little bit rushed. With pastries for coffee. A little uncomfortable, he apologizes: "It was difficult to find a place for the car in the middle of Amsterdam." After a first cup of coffee we took place and went to the recording button. He finds it difficult that "recording thing" on the table and looks at it regularly. But after a fifteen minutes, there is relaxation and he tells with attention and enthusiasm about his new sculptures.
You followed the education at the Art Academy in Arnhem. Was sculpture always your big passion?
"From childhood I have always been busy with drawing, painting and sculpting. My parents still have statues and drawings of me that I made at a young age. There has been a period of drawing and painting more, but since 2002 after my first exhibition, I went on to focus on sculpture. "
On the question of what he painted, but especially why he has switched to sculpture, Meijer answers very carefully ...
"My subjects were still life and human figures, and I first painted in a somewhat precise and later in a somewhat loose style. I'm still drawing. I experience the process of sculpture other than when painting; It is slower and more intensive. I'm experiment for as long as I'm happy. That's my process. For this reason, I always work on multiple sculptures at once. That keeps my look fresh and focused. "
The bronze skin of your sculptures is technically perfect. The bronze foundry is therefore essential. Where do you cast your sculptures?
"Indeed, the quality of the bronze and the accuracy of the cast is very important for me. I make my sculptures in clay and wax and then pour them through my foundry’s in Geldermalsen, Tiel and Belgium. Good cooperation with the bronze foundry is essential. There are many phases that the sculpture must go through; From the making of the mold to the final patinate of the bronze. All these phases are important to achieve a good end result. I therefore work closely with the bronze caster, give directions and corrections here and there. I often work on details like fingers, hands and faces myself. ''

When we look at your sculptures, organic shapes and stylized lines dominate. Detailed and perfectionist. Does this have anything to do with your own personality?
"In my daily life, I can be quite chaotic, and perhaps because of the need to create order in my work. In all my sculptures I search for balance and harmony. In the Blockhead sculpture, loose fragments combine into a whole, which you could see as a literal translation of this search. ''

Your work has a very clear own signature, but within that spectrum you vary quite well. Sometimes realistic with a specific atmosphere, then very stylized ...
"The sculpture Woman with pillow is a very realistic sculpture of a Woman with pillow. I find the contrast between the smoothness of the skin and the pleats in the pillow interesting. Embroidery, on the other hand, is very graphic and originated from a drawing. It's the variation in shape and effect that makes it fascinating for me. ''

"Also in my new series of sculptures is that variation. The Watermirror sculpture is a woman figure that bends over. I think that attitude is exciting because most of the rest is interesting, as it is at least so important. The female figure is like a bridge. Because it mainly takes shape here, I choose for styling. So I leave hands and feet, as few details as possible. "

"With the sculpture Man with collar I choose for a more realistic effect. Every sculpture asks for its own solution. In general terms, one sculpture may be a development from a previous work. I do not want to impose a formula on myself, because especially the freedom to make what I want, sculpture makes me fascinating. '' ;
Often there is an attribute present in a sculpture. Does this symbol represent something, or do they have a particular function?
"Sometimes I think an sculpture needs something. In Man with collar I had that need too. I tried to make the collar first, but I was not satisfied with that. Then I asked a friend of mine, who made origami lamps, if she could fold a collar for me. She then made a paper version. ''

"Some of my female characters wear a bathing cap. This is not so much a symbol of something, but hair often leads to or refers to a specific time  or era that I do not want. It should not be a portrait. I'm looking for timeless, universal. The choice for either or no attribute may be a struggle for me. ''

Do you use models to create an sculpture?
"For some sculptures, you will need a model, not for other sculptures. Those sculptures originated from an idea; An idea that has arisen as a result of a drawing or something I've seen somewhere. I almost always have my sketchbook with me and if I get a statement, I'll sign that. That can be an attitude or something else that can provide a fascinating sculpture. I regularly look at sites like Pinterest. People who inspire are, for example, English painter Euan Uglow or Italian illustrator Laurenzo Mattotti, but also design and photography interest me. ''

"If needed, I use a model. There I take pictures and I sketch. Which I use for support or as a starting point. The final shape is created by sometimes changing the anatomy in certain places: for example, making the neck longer, giving the body a riser or giving more volume. Search and finding the ultimate shape happens while working in the studio. Sometimes I do it in total silence, but often I turn on music. "

Ype Koopmans director of Museum More recently visited your studio and he related your work to the school of Maillol.
"Yes, we talked about Maillol and other Dutch sculptors like Han Wezelaar, Piet Esser, John Raedecker and Fred Carasso. Like with them, the human figure is central to me and my own form is being sought. As is typical of Maillol's work, some of my characters like Hide & Seek of Focus are round, soft and bulky. In addition, of course, I also have very slender figures in my oeuvre, such as Perpendicular and Sitting model. I am looking for my form language within this age-old theme of human and animal. Ype Koopmans called my work virtuoso and saw a clear line in my varied oeuvre. ''

You already mentioned a number of painters and artists who inspire you; And when it comes to sculptures?
"There are several contemporary sculptors whom I appreciate, for example Elizabeth Stienstra, Willem Lensink, Mauro Corda and Ron Mueck. Although the work differs greatly from one another, I appreciate all of them the power of the work and the skill they are made with. The one touches me with the way in which the shape is put in focus, the other does that more on the content level. ''

Your work expresses a deep feeling. What is your focus on, as a human?
"Really connect with other people. I have some good friends with whom I have a very open and good relationship, and of course my family. In essence, it's all about life. At this time, it's best to stay true to yourself, with all the social hustle and social media around us. Individuals are essential to my sculptures. But I also have an extraverted side and like to make music with my friends. We jam in an expressive and loose way, without a pre-planned plan. Delicious. ''

Could you translate your expressive loose side into an sculpture?
"That has indeed been asked sometimes, if I could make a sculpture in a much more direct way. And dare to bring it to the bronze caster. If I'm content with such a result, this would be a challenging task.

In the gallery, I notice that people are being affected by your work, can fall in love with it. I notice that the energy you put into it, can make contact with the spectator.
"My sculptures are often associated with stillness. I work very concentrated and the emotion and energy with which I make them becomes visible in the work. But it's ultimately to the individual spectator, what he or she experiences when seeing my work. '

Article Kunstkrant March / April 2017, written by Karin van der Beek