How I refused a request and won an award instead. After the installation of the monumental light object ICEBREAKERS I received a commission from the residents’ committee of the tallest apartment building in Groningen to create a similar piece in their hall and I had no intention of doing so. Although this hall is also 15 meters high like the lounge in the theater, the distance from door to wall is only 5 meters. Another difference is the use of warm soft materials used in the first building and the dark and hard materials in the second. So I started my search for a fitting and matching design.

Also the wall opposite the entrance had to be considered. It had chalk marks all the way up that could not be removed. After a complete inventory and analysis, my starting point was to create a warm welcome and a royal reception. I opted for the image of a park landscape surrounded by light. Its width, depth and the green of the image give the impression of looking, as it were, right through the wall. The variety of sunny and shady parts, monumental representations (tree, girl, pond) and backdrops, dark parts and bright colours, make it possible for every onlooker to find a feel-good spot of attention. The top of the picture is set at the height of an average living room to bring the space back to human proportions and to take the attention off the wall.

The apartment complex is called “de Regentes”. It was the title of a member of the Dutch Royal family called Emma.  In the landscape I included a portrait of her in order to form a historical link with the building and to give life to the picture. There was only one black and white etching to be found of this period that could be used, no color pictures around 1890.  I portrayed her as an 18 year old girl, just before she got married and took up her reign. This makes her less of a ruler and more of a person.

SELECTION, CREATION AND TWO MUSEA

Meanwhile the committee had also asked designer Bart Vos to make a proposal. We both came up with the same analysis, but with a totally different interpretation. After offering my design it was the only one presented at the residents’ meeting and it was accepted with all votes but one from an anti royalist.

Then I asked hyper realist Gerard Boersma to create this picture in paint on two scales. One of the park I selected at 30% and one almost lifesize of the person in more detail. The actual print is 6.45 meter x 1.45 meters. Gerard always starts out with photographs, intensifies the colors and then paints them. It took thirteen photographs put together in one and his signature inward-looking solitaire is also in it. A fine co-creation for us both!

 

Next were a model and a dress. The model came riding to the park adorned with a bandana, sunglasses and a lot of dangling hardware. We put her in the picture sitting at the table and then took her to the Fries Museum. She was dressed and coiffed by curator Gieneke Arnolli in a time piece and before our eyes her whole posture changed. This was also due to the molding of the dress. In those days a female piece of clothing forced you into a specific posture and it made her absolutely regal. We then took another picture of her sitting at the same table in front of a white wall. 

Imagine this all took place in almost pre-digital times and it was one of the first prints of its kind by the Stork printer at the Textiel Museum. So Gerard and I drove to Tilburg to offer two color coded A4 pictures, made by an official art photographer, for scanning. No digital carrier was big enough yet to hold it and it could not be done by internet (this detail will come back in the second version). It took several test strips and prints to get it right. One print was interrupted close to the end due to a lack of ink and the restarting left a mark. Another print had the same problem when it was aborted because of a power shut down when the museum closed its doors for the night. The story about another print is funny but long. It was still a learning process. We were also evolving in taking pictures and storing them…. All the material on Gerard’s computer got lost in a crash, including the work in progress pictures and the model.

ARCHITECTURE AND AWARD

The building was created by the architectural firm of Abe Bonnema and they were pleased with the end result. They thought it was a much needed addition to their design. The opening was grand and as a result of the appreciation of the residents EMMA won the Public Audience Award and it also gained a Jury Mention at the Frisian Design Awards.

 

REQUEST FOR A REPRINT TURNING INTO REMAKE

Fourteen years later I was given a second commission to re-create EMMA. I had just visited her with a film crew who were recording several pieces of my work for Irish national television. The production team all loved EMMA best….

I gladly accepted the commission, but who would have figured I had to reconstruct EMMA almost from scratch…. When I tried to get her reprinted at the TextielMuseum they told me they had deleted all the files going back 10 years. Fortunately, the photographer was able to produce the original but discolored slides. These were converted to a digital file, but a lot of “information” was lost. All in all 5 experts added their expertise and one of my assistants has been Photoshopping for a whole day to fill in the white spots. And I still wasn’t satisfied with the end result. Then I asked Gerard Boersma to do a final touch and after I added one more color correction it was to my liking. The print is perfectly done at Print Unlimited and after removing and re-tacking her with around 2000 staples EMMA is restored back to life again.