During an internship with the artist Frouwkje Smit in 2013 I was asked to paint a mural. It was to be made on
an exterior wall of the Noorderparkkamer foundation in Amsterdam. The building situated in the Noorderpark was
a nursery for new artists. I immediately accepted this big commission, which was to be on a wall seven meters
long. The only caveat was that the mural should reflect the ‘artists nursery’ nature of the building. I began
to sketch out various ideas which would be presented to the clients.
Things didn’t go as planned. On the day of my presentation, as I was walking through the park, sketches in hand, I was stopped by a group of men and women. “What are you doing here, what are those drawings?” They made it clear that I was on their territory. The fact that it was eleven in the morning and they had half empty bottles of beer made it apparent that I was dealing with people on the edges of society.
This episode made me approach the mural painting in a different way. I ditched the sketches and decided on a
concept that would involve the people I’d met in the park. I painted a large eye which looked in, as it were,
on the activities within the building. The background would be painted by my new acquaintances.
In the days that followed we talked, drank coffee and a relationship developed where my ideas were accepted. Even so I chose to leave their ‘territory’ by five o’clock every evening. Because at this point they would at least all have drunk over ten beers.
The day that we were to paint the background of the mural a festival was going on in the park. I gave brushes out and without too much discussion we all got to work applying the paints I had selected. After a half hour or so we stood back to view our work. “I don’t think that was the idea” someone said, “Nope” I agreed. The background had become a collection of fairly aggressive texts, unpleasant to read. By this time the evening light was fading and my assistants were drinking heavily. Someone suggested using rollers to overlay the background colours, “perfect, lets do it” I said, and so we set to it as the light dimmed. Someone else suggested spattering white paint as a finishing touch, so that was done as well, but by this time it was too dark to see the result, that would have to be the surprise for the next day.
The following morning looking through the sunbeams I contemplated a surprisingly nice mural with overlapping colours that harmonised with the natural surroundings. This first commission, the meeting with the people in the park and collaborating with them have had a lasting influence on me and my subsequent artistic work.Next