Judith van Meeuwen, curator Kunsthal KAdE, 2018

I would like to take you on a journey through my thoughts, to lead you through an imaginary sketch, a design for an ideal museum. This model museum is specifically constructed around the work and philosophy of one artist. It offers both a permanent and a changing exhibition. It is an honor to be the designer of this imaginary cultural treasure, just as a wealthy collector can create a perfect environment for their artworks. In such a place, everything is complete, everything is in balance, and all disruptive elements have been removed.

The artworks for which I am tasked with designing a museum belong to an artist who employs a high level of tactility, of feeling sensation, where nature plays an essential role, and the love for the beauty of structures and materials prevails. Over time, her works have become softer, more delicate. A fragile sensibility has permeated her creations. They stand as powerful representations of transience, of the strength found in vulnerability.

Before I take you further into and around my imaginary museum, with the artworks in their imaginary prime locations, I would like to reveal the name of the museum to you in advance. Welcome to the Meulendijks Museum of Fragile Art (the MMFA).

Let's begin with the location of the museum. Far away from any highway or airport, this building is situated in an oasis of tranquility; in a leafy garden with a pavilion and a tower, near a large pond.

In the reflection of the water in the pond, you can see the museum in the distance, an 18th-century cream-colored mansion, with a modern glass extension at the back in 21st-century style. On the roof is located the work 'Desire' from 1995. On a sunny day the yolk-yellow egg, perched and balanced on a corner of the roof of the building, is radiant and a focal point in the wider area. The egg is the ultimate symbol of fragility, but here it seems invulnerable. The crown—the second part of the work—is located next to the house on the terrace. The crown below represents this museum as an institution, as a sanctuary for fragile works and thoughts.

The Palladian-inspired house has a grand entrance staircase. With each step upward, the visitor experiences the ascent to the house of fragile art.
At the back of the museum, in a metal and glass conservatory, there is a light and warm studio where you can occasionally see the artist at work and meet her.

The old mansion exudes a pleasant atmosphere. Soft light, shutters dim the harsh summer light when necessary. Downstairs, there are two rooms with high cornflower blue ceilings on both sides, symmetrically arranged. The first room displays a work on the wall titled Blossom.
Jolanda Meulendijks created the work in 2014. It features crocheted blossom flowers on a wooden branch. The delicate blossoms are immortalized. The stamens continue to beckon to insects. In the same space, the work Stil Water from 2014, is placed on the wooden floor. The jugs - made of blue rope and blue wool - serve as containers for submerged thoughts, as storage jars for memories. On the wall, written in neutral light gray Helvetica font: Silence Water uit 2014 geplaatst. De kruiken –  van blauw touw en blauwe wol – als containers voor bezonken gedachten, als voorraadbussen voor herinneringen. Op de muur staat in neutraal licht grijze Helvetica letter geschreven:

“No one creates… the artist assembles memories.”        J.B. Yeats (1922)

The second room showcases the work And I Fall and I Rust and I Sing from 2015. Seventy elements, figures made of yellow and orange metal wire, are displayed on one wall. Light and shadow play with the work regularly.

Through the glass conservatory at the rear, you can then move to the right side of the house. This glass extension, where the artist often works, offers a beautiful view of the pond. Clouds, created in 2014, hangs from a beech tree. The sun and the wind interact with the hanging shapes reminiscent of weaver bird nests.

In the third room, you'll find the drawing series Heartlines' from 1999. In this series of drawings, Meulendijks drew lines on paper with graphite, using her body as an extension of the pencil. The boundaries of the drawing encompass the span and reach of the artist's body and arm. On the wall, written in pencil:

"In an almost endless repetition of movements, a lattice of lines emerges, fragile, yet firmer with each stroke."

In the room, there are large sheets of paper. Meulendijks frequently creates new Heartlines and invites visitors to pick up the pencil and add their own lines.

Room four is a special room with a rotating display. Each time, a selection is made from Meulendijks’ body of work in relation to works by others. This time, a ground setup featuring artworks from the series Ivy and Grass Wrap from 2004. On the wall – with heartfelt thanks for the generous loan from the Albertina in Vienna – hangs the watercolor The Great Piece of Turf by Albrecht Dürer from 1503, depicting cocksfoot, white bentgrass, creeping bentgrass, broadleaf plantain, yarrow, common speedwell, dandelion, daisy, and ribwort plantain.

With an imperial staircase - one you can slide down comfortably - you go upstairs to an attic space with wooden beams reminiscent of the St. John's Hospital in Bruges. This attic is divided into two large rooms. On the left side is the 'Sketch Room': a display of all the sketches. In old wooden lectern display cases, there are photos of various sketches. The Geranium Sketches are placed next to the Weathervanes. Both were created in 2016. These leaves are sewn together. A beautiful yet brutal intervention. Essential work for a museum of fragile art.

Another display case shows two Shard Sketches, both from 2016. A small light blue and a dark blue pot-like shape, a ready-made, reinforced and connected with cotton thread. It brings to mind the Japanese concept of Kintsugi: perfect imperfection to reveal the beauty of something broken

Next to the Sketch Room is a space called the Finds Room. It is a study in a wunderkammer-like arrangement, a chamber of wonders. With books, dried flowers, stuffed frogs, and, on long-term loan, Frank Halmans' collection of pinned flies. In one corner, a large cabinet with various boxes with handwritten labels of finds. Many finds.

Above the entrance to the Finds Room, in light gray dull letters, it says:

He who looks with intent looks beyond the things that matter. They only present themselves when you're not looking for them.

And above the bookcase: He who finds something has been searching for something else. *2

After visiting the impressive attic, it's time for a visit to the estate. In the garden, near the pond, there is a small rectangular house. The front facade has two blue window sills and a blue front door with a "3" and a "2" painted on it. This tiny house is a fully furnished residence, an artist-in-residence for invited artists for the Windowsill Project. Artists invited for a presentation stay here. The windows serve as trial settings. But it is also a tribute to The Windowsill on the Bergstreet in Amersfoort. As soon as it starts to darken, in the windows, you can see a virtual representation of the artworks that have been displayed since the project started in 2013.

At the back of the garden, a campanile beckons. A spiral staircase of a hundred steps takes you to an upper platform. Here hangs the recent work Still, from 2017. Narrow copper wires suspend copper bowls close to the floor. They hang silently in space. Singing bowls without sound. At the top of the tower, you have a panoramic view of the estate. In the distance, in a weeping willow, hangs the work Swarm from 2013. Knotted cocoons of white rope hang like beehives in the willow. The tree seems to live in complete symbiosis with these cocoons, quietly waiting for the metamorphosis after hatching.

In the garden, there is also a music pavilion designed by Dré Wapenaar, overlooking the pond with the work Clouds. On special philosophical and musical evenings, an outdoor fireplace is lit here. Because the fringe program is important at the MMFA. An ideal evening would be to listen to a performance of Water Dance by the Japanese composer Karen Tanaka while enjoying ambrosia. Then, as the first guest speaker, Stine Jensen explains the concept of mimesis by Aristotle in relation to Jolanda Meulendijks's work. The essence of her presentation: for Aristotle, the artist is the one who selects elements from reality, processes them into a structure, and thus models things, shapes them into a comprehensible image, in which universal truth is revealed. For Aristotle, art is the revelation of the universal, a re-creation of life.

Mimesis does not slavishly reflect existing reality; it creates a new reality. The imitation of that self-created world is, however, faithful. This also applies when the representation is only suggestive: what is suggested in the imitation is often supplemented in the mind. Jensen concludes her lecture with the beautiful poem Wild Gardening by J. Bernlef, from 1968.

After a while, a second guest speaker joins by the fireplace. It is philosopher Awee Prins, who explains his upcoming book on fragile thinking and his philosophy of warmth and appreciation of the everyday. He advocates for a form of loose thinking to dismantle supposed certainties and to do more justice to the fragility of our human existence. Fragile existence requires fragile thinking.

Finally, I would like to invite you to imagine creating a museum and fringe programming for Jolanda Meulendijks's work in your own thoughts: an uplifting exercise in mimesis, contemplation, and perfection. I bid you farewell from the tower of this - albeit imaginary - but so real to me - museum of fragile art.

*1 Awee Prins (1957)From: Interviewspecial Volkskrant Magazine 2016: Awee Prins: Wij snappen niet wat geluk is, Wilma de Rek, 24 december 2016

*2 From: Hans Kloos wrote in ‘Het gedicht als oog’ about the poet Bernlef. De Groene  Amsterdammer, 11 mei 1994


___________Discovering the cult of balance

___________in the nuances of gray-leaved shrubs

just as

___________an informal use of roses,

simply called:

___________wild gardening!

Within bounds, emotions rage

___________in nuances of gray;

garden design, no, architecture:

___________it's about the idea,

not like Versailles, but hidden

___________behind unweeded weeds

in collaboration with the wind,

___________beds and paths emerge.

Not a composition (flowers spelling names,

___________trees trimmed in the shape

of trees),

___________but a place where

things are as on a table

___________or seen from

above a city,

___________principally unfinished.

Such a garden is not a territory,

___________neither the border belongs to her

nor the surroundings,

___________but a mentality

proved in mimesis:

___________in its invisibility,

it can be read.

J. Bernlef, Wild Gardening, 1968

This text was written by Judith van Meeuwen, and published in 2018, as introduction to the catalogue with a selection of Jolanda's work.