Working on a body of work centered around the theme of travel and being on the road, Jolanda Meulendijks had already settled in Berlin. She found herself in the studio of the late artist Albrecht Genin in 2013. I must admit that Genin's work was unfamiliar to me, but it turns out that I found it right next door at Galerie De Vis in Harlingen. His paintings and graphics sparked my curiosity, and the newly-discovered work left me wanting more. Figures dancing in the wind, evoking stories from ancient times. Genin had simplified human forms to their essence. His art was firmly rooted in history, harking back to the origins of human existence, as intended by the creator. In an atmosphere of memory and with the emotion of forgotten maps, a collection of pure pigments, and large brushes, Meulendijks began her work. Guided by the wanderings of the mythical Odysseus, chronicled by Homer in his Odyssey, which was part of her travel reading material, Jolanda embarked on a mental journey. While her physical journey had Berlin as its destination, her mind could travel in any direction—there were no limits to the world. Meulendijks found herself at the intersection of zenith and nadir, transforming her inspiration into art.
But then, a virus and a lockdown suddenly disrupted everything. Jolanda Meulendijks found herself stuck in Berlin, longer than planned. She had to spend more time indoors than outside. With the Odyssey under her pillow, she embarked on a journey within the studio. She also ventured out into the streets whenever possible, finding cardboard in containers by the roadside and trinkets at the market. Things that no longer seemed to matter in daily life. With this material, she continued her liberating work by commission. She had been invited by the Livingstone Gallery in The Hague to stay in the German city for three months. Fate had tied a few strings together. Strange figures and peculiar shapes emerged. They resembled something familiar—an identifiable shape or an everyday object. Yet, they were nothing and seemed to resemble nothing. These figures led their own lives and allowed room for imagination.
So fate attaches a number of things to it. Strange figures and peculiar forms have emerged. Apparitions, reminiscent of something; a familiar shape or an everyday object. But they are nothing and resemble nothing. These forms lead their own lives, giving space to the imagination. They are spatial phantasms and three-dimensional specters of the mind. They appear when I close my eyes and happily indulge in a daydream. Bright colors, no murky shades. The visions present themselves sharp and well-defined. In the environment left behind because death sent the artist to the other side, Meulendijks reaches back to what was. Without what was, there can be no what is, and certainly no what will be. She travels in the spirit of the studio, the workspace she is in at that moment. Maps serve as material and subject. Pages from old atlases are torn, cut, and almost unrecognizably find themselves in the artworks of this 'world traveler'.
Geographical drawings are characteristic of being on the move. They allow the traveler to determine their location and the route to take to reach another destination. In a mythological design, the artist embarked on her journey. From Troy to Ithaca, and from there to here. Not by car, train, or boat but in her thoughts. She soared like a bird, seeing the layouts of different environments from above. But she felt like a castaway, washed ashore in her own psyche. And now, Meulendijks brings her ideas, which took shape in solitude, out into the open. First, there was the small publication "Lockdown in Berlin," featuring the initial figures and installations. Now, there's the exhibition running until August 29th in The Hague, where these forms have grown and matured.
Jurjen K. van der Hoek, 2020
Online review of Lockdown in Berlin, a publication by Jolanda Meulendijks, following her artist in residence at LivingstoneProjects Berlin, spring 2020 in Berlin.
Lockdown Berlin: Past, Present, and Future, an exhibition at Livingstone Gallery The Hague featuring works by Jolanda Meulendijks, Ingrid Simons, and Harry Markusse; until August 29, 2020.