Eddy Stikkelorum’s work is so intriguing. I could just sit and look at it for quite a long time http://stikkelorum.nl/ not only because it’s beautiful, but because it raises an almost eternal question. Is it art or design? Here’s my cool chat with the artist … or is he a designer?
“… I do not want my objects to evoke any association with reality … My aim is that the works evoke feelings in the viewer without association with something else. It is the sculpture itself that counts …”
MICHAEL: Hello Eddy, Your work is fantastic. Your sculptures are really a great marriage between design and art. What inspires you to create them?
EDDY: Thanks Michael. Thanks for the compliment. You're absolutely right if you assumed that my work moves between design and art.
I will try to explain it. During my education to become an interior architect (1975-1980) at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague, I found my creative freedom too restricted. Yet I graduated with flying colours. That gave me the chance to further education (Masters), only available for talented students, given by Joop Beljon, then director of the Royal Academy of Visual Arts. Beljon was an environmental artist and one of the founders of art in public space. He introduced me to the term “design without boundaries.” This period was a very important stage for me toward more creative freedom. I completed this training in one year (1981) instead of two. I got commissions from the local authorities and government ministries, but these assignments were still bound to all kinds of rules. At last in 1984, I took the step to autonomous free work; at last … groundbreaking creative growth. But still, I will not deny it, my roots are in design.
MICHAEL: Eddy, are you saying that "design without boundaries" is really art? Isn't "function" what separates design from art?
EDDY: A question in return … Is experience a function? And experience is so vital for both art and design. What I mean is that the border is very thin Michael. Very thin.
MICHAEL: And so, your work is art that looks like design except for the cases where it's actually design and I can use it. For example, a chair or table. Anyway, I love it. I look at it and I see lots of blonde wood. Why do you – and Scandinavians - love blonde wood so much?
EDDY: Ha, ha, ha! I'm Dutchman, Michael. I'm not from Scandinavia. All Dutchmen ride bikes and it's a long way for me to cycle to Scandinavia.
MICHAEL: Haha! I understand.
EDDY: I think wood is a great material to work with and it feels warm and natural. Moreover, it is easy to work with and you do not need expensive tools. Wood smells so good if you are working with it. In short, I love to work with wood. And the color is simply blonde, so be it.
MICHAEL: Your work is exquisite. The common denominator in all of it is your smooth, clean lines. Why do you do this so much?
EDDY: The smooth, clean lines are a deliberate choice. I create the lines to provide clarity. It is however - as you expect from a designer - the shape that counts; the shape and nothing but the shape. And yet, I do not give you the clarity that you'd expect. No clarity about that form as you see it.
The shape of the sculptures are created with one goal; the total distance of reference to the outside world, conceptual, political and commercial. I do not want my objects to evoke any association with reality. Once that happens, then I destroy the work. My aim is that the works evoke feelings in the viewer without association with something else. It is the sculpture itself that counts. More specifically, it is the shape of the sculpture that tells her story.
MICHAEL: The world is crowded with so many things that people ignore because they're so busy running around and trying to make money to pay their bills. Do we really need more sculpture? Sculptures just sit there and take up valuable space. No?
EDDY: Yes and No. In addition to my work as an artist, I held several functions in business and government as an art advisor. That’s why I see a huge amount of sculpture. And sometimes, I think indeed that too much is made. But at the same time, I discover then suddenly a sculpture that really is worth it - sculpture that has much more quality then the majority. Let us cherish those precious moments. And let us never forget, without art, without, music, without dance, life is worthless.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Tell me about the Netherlands. As an American, I see it as this happy little principality where everyone is happy and safe with abundant food and drink and people whistle while they work ... if they have to work at all ... and most people are artists who make beautiful things and there are no problems. I also see it as a very sunny place. LOL.
EDDY: Ha, ha, ha! You're absolutely right, Netherlands is a true paradise. I hereby would like to invite you to see with your own eyes. And please bring your own umbrella with you.
But seriously, I visit New York frequently. And it is clear to me that artists there live differently than in the Netherlands. Our system of social insurance and health care feels like a warm bath. But our level of ambition is very low. It sounds strange, but in the Netherlands there are hardly bad and barely good artists. In New York (I do not know how it is in the rest of the USA), ambition is in the air, you can inhale it. Therefore, I think there are more opportunities in New York for artists with talent and courage. (On the other hand, if you fail the fall is devastating.
MICHAEL: Interesting. Is it possible to be a great artist with very low ambition?
EDDY: A great artist with very low ambition? Personally, I don't think that exists. Of course, there are artists who like to make the same kind of work, over and over again and they feel comfortable with it. But the artists I admire the most are artists who want to develop themselves continuously. And I think, in my own work as well, it is crucial to move forward. And still, after each sculpture I make, I think the next one will be even better. That's called ambition, isn't it?
MICHAEL: Yes, it is. Back to your work ... I see amoeba-like, organic, curvy playfulness in your sculptures which makes them fun. I bet kids love your work. Does this go through your mind while you're creating?
EDDY: The shapes of my sculptures are the result of endless sketches, both on paper as digital. It is important for me - I described this earlier - that my drawings do not resemble things that people recognize. Thinking about your question; it would not surprise me if children would find my work interesting. When an image has no reference to any reality, it seduces our imagination and children have infinite imagination.
MICHAEL: What do you do when you're in New York? Do you have many shows there or do you work as an art advisor? What do you do as an art advisor?
EDDY: I love New York, I told you. I love to be in the energy of that city. There is so much to see, to experience and so many galleries, so much art. But in addition, in New York, my work is represented by Michele Mariaud Gallery at 153 Lafayette Street. They exhibit my sculptures and show my work in the art fairs. I love to be there. So when I can afford it, I like to fly across the ocean to that wonderful city.
Regarding my work as an art advisor … I work for municipalities and other authorities. I recommend in the area of “art in public space” as well as collection management and maintenance of art collections. I offer my help in choosing artists and supervised art commissions. That's nice work especially because the work in the studio can be very lonely.
MICHAEL: The process of shaping and bending wood looks very involved. How do you do that?
EDDY: The wood is not bent. I cut the form of a plate of plywood and I'll do that several times. Then I glue these identical shapes together. You understand? It looks complicated, but it's really clever, typical an idea of a designer, right?
MICHAEL: When people look at your work, what do you hope they will see? Is there a theme or basic message that you're sending them through your work?
EDDY: I have no message in the sense that you're expecting. Other artists are working on that. It is their right, I understand. But when I - for example - would have a political or social agenda, I can better carry it out in my role as a consultant. It is closer to power. That can make the difference.
In my own work as a visual artist, it's very different. It is my intention that the viewer will experience a sense of beauty. Aesthetics is important in my work, but more important is the admiration and the feeling.
MICHAEL: Yes it is. Thanks Eddy. This has been a cool chat and I absolutely love your work.
Check out Eddy Stikkelorum at http://stikkelorum.nl/.