Tijn Meulendijks

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Seed To Seed
Claudine Marzik and Tijn Meulendijks
Seed To Seed Opening Speech : Maurice O' Riordan, Editor Art Monthly, Australia       PDF - Click Here
Seed To Seed Essay : Ingrid Hoffmann, Director, KickArts Contemporary Arts       PDF - Click Here

Germinating, Growing, Wilting
Claudine Marzik and Tijn Meulendijks

The natural world has always fascinated us, challenged us and captured our imagination. We seek knowledge and pleasure as well as reassurance and revelation from our environment, often altering or even transforming it in this process. It is many of the perilous changes to our environment that have become so concerning and that are pressing us to look ever more closely and urgently at our impact upon it. This inaugural collaborative exhibition, Germinating, growing, wilting, by Far North Queensland-based artists, Claudine Marzik and Tijn Meulendijks, reflects the current interest in and concern for the environment and its future and also, importantly, considers the wonder and poetry of the natural world.

Marzik and Meulendijks, both born overseas, have established a long-term artistic relationship after seeing each other's work and meeting in the context of an industry in which they have trained and worked. The discovery of kindred spirits and artistic similarities including their floral design training and European connections, have inspired them to work together on this exhibition and plan future collaborative projects. Working together on a prize-winning sculpture as well as an artist-in-residency at Trinity Bay State High School affirmed their ease and interest in working alongside each other. Their meeting has been a true coming together of artistic minds and aesthetic sensibilities: both respond to the other's work with a deep knowledge of exactly the source of inspiration, the motivations and the use of materials. Both artists look to their close environment and north Queensland surroundings: the earth, rocks, landforms, plants and vegetation, including the minutiae of the landscape, the humble, the almost hidden and often overlooked. The simpatico between Marzik and Meulendijks has given a new impetus to both their individual and collaborative work. Based on this implicit trust and artistic understanding, the two artists also support each other's independent art careers.

The work of Marzik, an established, consummate and prominent painter, suggests the influence of many factors including her Swiss background, her floral design career and living in far north Queensland. The textures, colours and patina of her minimalist yet complex paintings reflect the milieu and layers of these influences and experiences. The contemplation of her Australian environs is imbued with her European context as well as deep-felt connectedness with the natural environment of both. Within this framework, with layer upon layer of paint on canvas, she works back through the subtle tones, hues and marks to find the sensual poetry of, for instance, vegetation on a forest floor. In Germinating, growing, wilting, Marzik has reached new levels in her refined and graceful sense of spatial relationships created by lines and slashes, fine and broad, revealing and concealing colours, which give structure and unity to what might appear, at first, random and spontaneous. The experience of viewing her work is immediately a sensory one: we are drawn into the canvas as we discover the flash of orange-red in a field of pale creamy yellow or a surprising dark line that whips at a diagonal angle across the surface. We feel enlivened by this view of the natural world. The works are suggestive, evocative and energetic. Marzik coalesces the harmonies, discords, traces and spirit of the landscape. Paradoxes emerge and, so too, tensions arise and disappear again. For instance, the black marks of oil crayon and thick acrylic paint, sanded back, criss-crosses the canvas in a structured yet, at the same time, apparently random manner, controlled yet expressive, strong yet fragile, and substantial yet delicate. Thoughts and questions are posed: Is that a horizon? Are these fallen twigs crackling underfoot? Is this the pink blush of the sunset reflecting on the rocks? When did fire come across this land?

In much the same way, such questions arise in Meulendijks' work. Indeed, his thoughts are in the materials he uses: he thinks with his natural materials finding both the media and concept of his works within the material. Meulendijks, an installation artist, began his career in his birth place, The Netherlands. Combining Masters training in floral design and a lifelong interest in botany, his work crosses countries and also, significantly, the boundaries of contemporary art and natural sciences. This symbiosis of the close analytical observation of a botanist and the sensitive aesthetic perceptiveness of an artist creates works of particular subtlety and elegance. The realisation of such work is achieved with the artist's high level of dexterity and ability in constructing natural materials into new forms while at the same time preserving the integrity of the original material. We see and feel the presence of nature and the natural world in his work. The veracity of the material is always manifest and uncompromised. Standing before Meulendijks' works is akin to the awe, curiosity and, indeed, aesthetic pleasure that we might experience within a natural environment - the rainforest, the sclerophyll bush, the river bank or the ocean shore. We too are discovering the world of nature with the artist and encountering the fragile but durable structures, shapes, textures, colours and even aromas.

Meulendijks and Marzik are on an exploratory journey into the natural world. They find nature as it is. They present an experience of the natural world and a contemplation of nature. Underlying this reflection is a deep knowledge of plants and an understanding of the phases of germination, growth and dying but so too the impermanence and, conversely, the resilience of nature. Marzik and Meulendijks burrow beneath the surface appearance of the natural world bringing to light internal and inherent qualities. The artists are sensitive to the innate structures and forms of nature but also to its chaotic and haphazard qualities. Significantly, they are acute to the poetry and aesthetics of nature: their work is like being in and of nature. The essence of nature is conveyed without frills or frippery.

The artists' uncertainties about being on the right path in their collaborative ventures can surely be dispelled. While, indeed, there is a rightness and pertinent cohesiveness between their bodies of work, there are differences which establish creative tension and dynamics between the works and which play off each other. Apart from the evident dissimilarities of material and support - the paint and canvas of Marzik and the natural material of Meulendijks - we can distinguish the passionate collector/observer/artist alongside the accomplished colourist/abstractionist/artist. Importantly, however, the illuminating and sensory perspective of Marzik and Meulendijks enable us to see and cherish our natural world anew.

Barbara Dover

Tijn Meulendijks: The Winding Way
Jacqui Stock

North Queensland's sugar industry may hold some of the answers to the current energy crisis through the conversion of its waste matter into ethanol.

The recent election of the Rudd Government in Australia has renewed hope amongst sugar farmers who are experiencing historically low crop prices due to the influx of cheap sugar from Brazil and India. The 20 per cent renewable energy target set by the Australian Labour government could support an increase in biomass generators, with some estimates suggesting these generators could produce up to 10 per cent of the nation's electricity from the treatment of municipal and crop waste.

Mackay Sugar Mills is currently considering two major investments in this arena; a $100 million co-generational plant producing 35 MW of electricity and an Ethanol production plant producing 60 million litres of Ethanol for transport fuel.

The idea of artists engaging with the environment is not a new one and has been approached in varying metamorphoses since the beginning of last century.

The 1960 s movement Arte Provera explored the elemental forces found within their chosen materials and the effects of these forces on their immediate environment. Works created within this movement achieved a presence both physical and gestural, reflecting on the relationship created between the art and its viewer.

The essential characteristic of this school of art was the way in which it included the viewer within its focus.

The medium dictated the work and it is this premise that dictates the work of Cairns based artist Tijn Meulendijks.

His artistic response utilises materials gathered from specific vegetal habitats. Meulendijks considers the plant world as his medium. His sensitivity to it and the processes involved within it, such as germination, growth, flowering, wilting and decaying, determine the form his work takes.

Another influence on this artists work is the seasonal aspect, or the 'moment', in which the material is gathered. A work created from material collected in spring would be very different from one where the material was collected in autumn. The evolving state of the plant would change its presence, its gesture and therefore the way in which it informs the artist. . Meulendijks' practice evolved from his training as a floral designer and observations garnered in his hobby as an amateur botanist; he is more attracted to the common than the exotic, finding inspiration in often-overlooked elements like seedlings, thorny vines, root systems and clods of earth. Meulendijks refers to the moment dictating the gestalt of the work, this and the symbolic associations perceived by the artist in relation to the piece combine to form the final structure, both physically and subjectively.

His exhibition, Natura est ars, held at Umbrella Studio in Townsville, was concentrated around a single plant community gathered while walking in a coastal Melaleuca swamp.

The resulting works were derived using a process of divination, looking into the material and responding directly according to what was expressed during this interaction. The material was collected after fire had affected the environment and several pieces were directly associated with this. Lilium longiforum (2006) shows leaves laid out in a grid formation arrested with their bodies contorted in various stages of dehydration, curled and withdrawing from their environment. (fire is an essential element in maintaining the cycle of growth in the Melaleuca swamp environment, the seedpods requiring fire to open and germinate).

Another piece titled 2007 was created using square cut clods of earth seemingly stitched together with broken lines along the floor. The earth was collected from a dry creek bed with tiny seedlings bursting from its surface evidencing new life in the making. A number of branches in various shapes and sizes reach out their arms to each other, their torsos bound with woven vines and grasses common to the swamp community. The shadows cast by their bodies, along the gallery wall, creating the feeling of life moving on, never static. Meulendijks refers to the winding movement of the vines as a cycle with strong connections to the seasons.

Strongly influenced by the concepts of the Arte Provera movement, Meulendijk rarely names his pieces, preferring them to stand alone, allowing only their presence to create connections with the viewer.

Meulendijks could be deemed the quiet educator, simply rearranging nature so as to confront the viewer, making them pause and notice what was there all the time.

Tijn Meulendijks

Installation using Calamus mottii (wait-a-while) and earth on Board.

Niche Gallery, Cairns Regional Gallery
6 April - 20 May, 2007

Calamus mottii (wait-a-while) winds and weaves its spiky vines through the dense tropical rainforests of North Queensland. The barbs of this robust vine trip up and hook the clothing of bushwalkers, interrupting their determination to reach a destination. We humans are forced to pause, to slow down and take our time through the undergrowth and wait-a-while. Where sunlight reaches through into patches of forest, cleared by natural events or human activity, wait-a-while dominates its habitat. This is most visible where extensive tracts of forest are felled to make way for electricity supply poles. Along these paths, as with the forest clearings, wait-a-while claims the land and in doing so is seen by humans as a menace.

From an anthropocentric view, the natural world is perceived and understood through the role attributed to it by humans. Any experience of nature is mediated by the languages we have available to us. From this limited view, nature is given meaning according to the use human's make of it: recreation zone, home surrounding, pest (as in the case of wait-a-while) tourism product, resource, or just pleasurable experience. Invested with human attention and intention in this way, positions nature as something of a human artifact.

"The complexity of the universe is beyond expression in any possible notation.
Lift up your eyes. Not even what you see before you can ever be fully expressed.
Close your eyes. Not even what you see now."

When measured by its utilitarian qualities the 'being' of nature or immanence, to borrow a philosophical terms, is left outside the field of knowing or experiencing. Observing human's failure to connect with 'nature as it is', provides the impetus for Tijn Meulendijk to bring to our attention its phenomenological qualities. In this latest installation, the artist works in tandem with the materiality of wait-a-while, investigating its qualities and allowing the material itself to guide and inform the way in which it is placed and the final form it will take. The artwork becomes an embodiment of the nature of the material. In the case of wait-a-while, its strong energy and thorny, aggressive behavior form the plant's inherent nature. The artist has no illusion about the material and no desire to change it or invest it with meaning. Rather, in working with the material, a new order is created and in this sense the artist curates the material, enabling artistic meaning to be found. This is poiesis - the process of working with a material or a thing to bring it into being. The artist's intentionality and the palpable nature of the material come together to make the artwork tangible. The third element is the viewer whose participation brings the artwork into actuality.

Nature's power is in its capacity for transformation through the direct physical influences of human activities or natural events. Wait-a-while is an embodiment of this power and the blackberry plant in Europe shares its resilience and dominating qualities. This installation then forms a connection for Meulendijk with his hometown of Geldrop , in the Netherlands where the blackberry thrives and where he produced a sister installation formed by the nature of the blackberry plant. Whether picturesque landscape of a field of virulent weeds, for Meulendijk, nature is all we have.

Reeve, H Kissing the Mess. Aesthetic Engagement with Ideas of Nature, IO vol. 1: Environmental Art (Internet Magazine IO (ISSN 1796-038X)) International Institute of Applied Aesthetic, http://www.helsinki.fi/jarj/iiaa/io1998/reeve.html, 9/3/2007

Frayne, M, Constructions, cited in Kissing the Mess. Aesthetic Engagement with Ideas of Nature, IO vol. 1: Environmental Art (Internet Magazine IO (ISSN 1796-038X)) International Institute of Applied Aesthetic

Whitehead D H, Poiesis and Art-Making: A Way of Letting-Be, Contemporary Aesthetics, online publication, http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=216, 9/3/2007

Susan Reid, Curator
Cairns Regional Gallery, March 2007