Drawing on modern issues: young artist show at Rijksakademie

Lisette de Greeuw's work Photo S Boztas

Some art tackles environmental themes – and some art is made from them. At the Rijksakademie open studios in Amsterdam, many young artists are experimenting with creating their own materials, with climate change and environmental impact in mind.

Emily Pethick, director of the academy where 50 artists take a two year residency programme, said that one of the themes this year is related to exploring artistic materials themselves.

“There are artists making their own materials – one made her own set of crayons,” she said. “There is a strong sense of environmental responsibility, a need for alternatives and non-toxic materials.”

Selma Selman, 32 and from Bosnia, for instance, worked on a safe way to extract the gold from waste computer parts, using it to cover a nail.

“I was thinking about labour, and the nail represents that,” she told Dutch News. “The gold is from these motherboards. I took more than two years to find a way to extract gold in a non-toxic way, and the goal was also to teach this to my community in Bosnia.

“I am asking the question of when human beings are going to be worth more than gold.”

In another room in the sprawling complex, Dutch artist Lisette de Greeuw has created colour arrangements in machine-woven works as well as her own set of wax crayons.

“The woven colours refer to the colour of the crayons,” she said. “I wanted 12 different colours in 48 different gradations. The orange isn’t so friendly to the environment, which is something I’m thinking about. But environmental colours can be very weak.”

The crayon set – named A Specific Amount of Colours of a Future Work – is, she said, similarly confounding. “It’s a work I will probably never make,” she said.

Relatively (not) old by Vita Buivid   Photo: S Boztas

The Open Studios, which started last weekend and is also open from June 8 to June 11, features all kinds of work from young artists, from a room-sized installation made from soil and plants by artist Peng Zhang to “statement lollipops” intended to make an audience suck on the issue of global ageing by Vita Buivid.

The Venice Editions room presents work from artists who participated in the 59th Venice Biennale, while in the social practice workshop, visitors can see a cookbook created in an artistic collaboration with Boost Amsterdam by Donghwan Kam, who created a mobile community kitchen and invited in newcomers from refugee backgrounds to cook.

“We are living in turbulent times and a lot of artists have a relationship to parts of the world where there are crises,” added Pethick. “That can go into a visual language, a poetic language, a space of reflection.”

Open Studios at the Rijksakademie runs from June 8 to June 11

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