Amsterdam-based artist and designer Maarten Vrolijk believes that art should make people’s everyday lives more beautiful through the many little details that evoke the unexpected. While strongly influenced by the natural world, Vrolijk is not on a quest to present an imitation of the “real” world, but rather, an exploration of the simple, unequivocal, and often overlooked aspects: color, form, delicacy, strength, transparency, ephemerality that provide a map to the fascinations we gravitate to when experiencing the world around us.
Working across a myriad of fine art and craft disciplines, his mixed media practice is remarkable for its consistency and fluidity. A steady line can be drawn throughout his body of work. His paintings inform his ceramics, which in turn are reflected in his textiles. The composition of his textiles is laid out with the same meticulous planning as his glass vessels. Though mostly abstracted, his subject has been primarily focused on flowers and other flora. Sometimes expressive, as in his paintings, or distinctly graphic, as in his ceramics, Vrolijk explains, “To my mind, flowers are nature’s gems and have long been a recurrent inspiration in my designs: the bold tulip, the sculpted rose, the delicate lily.”
Vrolijk is perhaps best known for glass vessels with their outgrowth of colored glass fragments. The volatility in accomplishing the exceptional thickness of his vases creates a risky balance between strength and delicacy. The thermal stress caused when trying to equalize the interior and exterior temperature of the cooling vessels, is fraught with the threat of breakage. The success of these pieces lies in the crystalline clarity posed against their substantial physical impact. To create each piece, a meticulously patterned bed of broken glass pieces is strategically laid down and heated to a specific temperature in order to be properly fused to a nascent blown glass form. The temperature and timing must be precisely in tandem. It is a high-stakes process that results in a kind of frozen sense of chaos.
Similarly, his bombastic ceramic vessels have a particular aliveness as a result of Vrolijk’s mastery of impulse and intuition. Heavily scored and expressively painted, each has a particular personality that is, at once, playful and defiant. The same can be said of his works on canvas with their energetic application and heavy impasto.
Vrolijk’s greatest success, whether in glass, fiber, paint, or ceramic, is the organic nature that he maintains throughout each work. Each form has an eccentricity achievable only by the hand of the artist. The jewel-toned fragments appearing like colorful melting ice on his glass vessels, and the otherworldly plant-like protrusions seemingly attaching themselves to or growing out of the ceramic vases, give way to an energetic rapture.
His works have been collected and exhibited in several renowned international museums including the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Groninger Museum. Todd Merrill Studio is pleased to be the exclusive representative for Vrolijk’s work in the Americas.