Marleen van Wijngaarden. Photography: Indra Gleizde

#ASK Marleen van Wijngaarden

For the #ASK section, we ask a number of questions to a fascinating person who’s active in the field of art, design & architecture in Rotterdam. This week that is Marleen van Wijngaarden: artistic leader of Murals Inc. and a former visual artist. Read on to find out more about a special project that will be shown during Rotterdam Art Week.

Marleen van Wijngaarden: “Especially in difficult times, artists have a knack of letting their light shine through the cracks of our existence.”

‘(real) humans’ Willehad Eilers aka Wayne Horse, ‘Alle Gegen Alle’

How did you get into the world of murals?
The first mural I made myself was in TENT. in 2012: it measured 7 x 5 metres. After that, I made a few more. When I started PHK18 in 2013, the predecessor of Murals Inc., I never imagined that murals would become such an important part of the programming, let alone that it would occupy such an important place within my life. Sometimes, Murals would be part of a regular exhibition, but it really got off to a flying start with the exhibition ‘PHK18 #11: ABSTRACT WALL PAINTINGS De Stijl 100 years’ in 2017. An exhibition that was initiated by Jasper van der Graaf, and consisted of fully abstract geometric wall paintings. Five (inter)national stages took part in it. As a result of this show, I started Murals Inc. on January 1, 2018.

What is the most ambitious project that you have undertaken so far? What made this work so special?
That is a difficult choice to make, because every project has its own level of ambition. But I would choose the Kadebrug project in Eindhoven. Murals Inc. had no significant projects to its name yet, but was nevertheless approached by the Municipality of Eindhoven, asking whether we wanted to compete for an assignment: painting a 600 m2 viaduct. Of course we wanted that and in the end, Luuk Bode was offered the assignment. Wow, what a monster job that ended up being. The changing (turbulent) weather, the complex design and a certain inexperience (…) made me reconsider my decision every now and then. But the great thing was, after five weeks it was over and the result was spectacular. We had endured this mega baptism of fire, with a special thanks to Luuk Bode and team Worstenbroodje (Sausage Roll). Incidentally, the ‘Murals Inc. Machine Painting Show’ project, performed during Art Rotterdam 2020, would be a close second. The good news is that in 2022, we will organise a second edition in the form of a small-scale festival.

Do you feel that being an artist yourself makes you better at your job?When I started Murals Inc., I decided to discontinue my professional practice as a visual artist. If you want to act at a good level, it is important to make certain choices. I have devoted myself to producing art for over 25 years, in which highs and lows alternated. I had my studio at the art initiative Duende in Crooswijk in Rotterdam. More than 50 artists had studios in a former school building of 4000 m2, an incredibly inspiring place. The activity program was of a high standard. In addition, we had three guest studios where hundreds of (inter)national artists stayed over the years. In addition to my professional practice, I was the coordinator of this Artist in Residence project for 10 years. After we had to leave the building in 2013, Duende dissolved after being in existence for 30 years. The process that I passed through; the dualistic plodding in my studio, all the exhibitions, exchanges and collaborations on beautiful projects have laid the foundation for my current work.

The fact that I used to be a visual artist, and that I know the ropes, means that I am familiar with the world of an artist. That’s a big plus. Another plus is that I know how difficult it is to make a good work of art, to reach the essence, to always keep going one step further. I like to work with artists who have the courage to take steps in their work when the outcome is uncertain. As a curator, I’m not out to play it safe either. It is not that difficult to create an aesthetically balanced exhibition. In any case, making exhibitions based on the mural offers me many challenges.

‘(real) humans’ muur rechts: Lisa Couwenbergh, ‘GIRL VII’

Can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming project on the Van Nelle Terrain?
In collaboration with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and CBK Rotterdam, Murals Inc. will make a corona-related wall project at a vaccination site: called Vacc. Art. This wall is located on the Van Nelle Terrain. In the first place, we are there for visitors who are going to get a vaccination. Coming from the art world, we wanted to make a positive contribution to the often difficult process that surrounds a vaccination. And of course, art must remain visible and continue. Especially in difficult times, artists have a knack of letting their light shine through the cracks of our existence.

A super nice side effect is that we remain visible during Art Rotterdam. We try to plan it in such a way that one canvas will be painted during Art Rotterdam. What I’m most looking forward to won’t be much different from other people: we are not made to live in isolation, interactions are the basis of our existence. Rotterdam Art Week promises numerous interactions, and I for one am looking forward to that!

Tip: the exhibition ‘(real) humans’ will be on show during Rotterdam Art Week at the permanent location of Murals Inc.