Time Travel Through Art

Wall of Utrecht
A few months ago, while looking through Pinterest, I saw a fantastic graphic-style print of Utrecht that I fell in love with instantly. Besides the style of it, I loved the different aspects of the city that were represented. Sadly, when I clicked through, trying to find any information about the artist or where I could buy a copy of it, I came up blank.

Imagine my thrill when I was walking down Domstraat recently, admiring the artwork on display in the windows of Catch, a local art store, and suddenly there it was, the print I had been searching for! The store was closed at the time, but I went in last week to enquire about the print. Pondering a bit more, I ended up going back yesterday and bought it. It’s the large print on the right, in case you hadn’t figured that out. It’s signed and numbered, even! The artist is Utrecht-based Jochem Coenen, and I absolutely love his style that seems to combine traditional and modern illustration so beautifully.

As well as buying the print, I also picked up some frames for some modern and antique prints I’ve been collecting. One is a print from 1857 of one of the early incarnations of the Paushuize. I’ve been writing a lot about the Paushuize recently for various websites and publications, so when I came across the print, I couldn’t resist. The pen and ink drawing of the Domtoren and Oudegracht is one that I picked up recently from another local artist, Ellessi, and the final print is another antique print of Utrecht depicting the bend in the Oudegracht in front of the Stadhuis.
Antique UtrechtIt’s a spot that is still recognizable, although much of it has changed in the past two hundred years or so, well, except for the Domtoren, of course. The Stadhuis (white buildings, center left) was rebuilt in a neo-Classic style around 1830. The crane on the left was originally built in 1402, although it underwent various updates and rebuilds until it finally gave up the ghost in 1837, while trying to unload the large caryatids that form the columns of the Winkel van Sinkel.
I recently came across a painting of roughly the same spot as my print by an Utrecht artist, Georg-Gillis van Haanen (1807-1879).
Nowadays, although many of the buildings have changed, that curve of the old canal, with the Domtoren rising up above the city, remains instantly recognizable. I’m sure even the artists of these images would soon feel at home.
The Agreement

Drawing with Light on the Rietveld-Schröder House

The Light-UP Collective is a group of artists here in Utrecht — including L-Tuziasm — who do fascinating things with light and projections. Essentially, they draw with light, using tablets, beamers, and their own in-house software fantastically named Happytron. Large or small, their projects aren’t just limited to the artists of the collective. They often have audience members get involved, as well. Nor is their work limited to Utrecht, they are involved in events all over the country.

However, it seems they did do some work here in Utrecht recently. Specifically, they took a trip to the Rietveld-Schröder House to work their light magic on the famous home. Have a look!


Tea for Two(thousand)

The Teapot
The western side of town is a mess of construction and renovation these days. As well as the construction of the new concert hall, the train station and the mall are in the process of being renovated. They’re also turning a road, which used to be part of the canal that ringed the city, back into a canal. As you can see, it’s a jumble of concrete, rebar, and who knows what else.

Yet if you look a little closer at all the construction, you’re likely to notice something a bit unusual.
The Teapot
It’s hard not to suddenly feel like the world’s gone a bit topsy-turvy and that perhaps you’ve ended up at the Mad Tea Party after imbibing something that makes you small. You may still be a bit mad, but at least you’re not seeing things. That is, indeed, a giant teapot on the roof of the Hoog Catharijne shopping center.

Why is a 7-meter-tall teapot standing on the roof of the mall? It’s part of a public art initiative titled Call of the Mall and is organized by the Foundation for Art in the Station Area in collaboration with the Municipality of Utrecht. The exhibition, which officially opens on 20 June, will feature 25 works of art placed throughout the mall and train station. Some are indoors, some are outdoors, and some are performances and presentations.

The Celestial Teapot by Lily van der Stokker represents the small, intimate aspects of daily life juxtaposed against the architectural destruction and aggressive consumerism. An interesting piece that was installed this week (unfortunately only a day after I was there) is a representation of the iconic man who stood in front of the tanks at Tienanmen Square. A thought-provoking piece when considered in the light of trying to make a stand against rampant capitalism and development, particularly with the current situation in Turkey.

The goal of the exhibition seems to be a collection of international works of art that reflect the times we live in, politically, emotionally, economically, and structurally. The location — the Hoog Catharijne, Europe’s largest indoor shopping center — is an interesting site for the exhibit.

When it was first constructed 40 years ago, it was considered innovative and exciting, but eventually came to be thought of by many as a massive eyesore. As the Call of the Mall website says, you either love it or hate it. The past 40 years have certainly seen a shift in thinking. Rather than closing off more canals and making them into roads, canals are being reopened while cars are being pushed further out of the city center. Progress means something different, in many ways, to what it once meant.

Hopefully these works of art will contribute to the discussion about what roles art and commerce should play in the future and how they can co-exist for the betterment of all. I like that amid all the rubble, there are these works of art of all sizes that can stop and make you think or simply just smile. After all, is a bit more beauty in the world such a bad thing?

You can read more about the whole project (in Dutch and English) at the official Call of the Mall website, which includes information on other works of art that will be on display.
The Teapot