Maastricht artist Paul Odekerken: ”Art is about communication”
May 21, 2010 Leave a Comment
While Matisse discovered the beauty of colour in the local textile mills in what was otherwise a lacklustre village, Maastricht artist Paul Odekerken finds his inspiration in a combination of the regional landscape and remnants of travels to distant places such as Brazil.
I wasn’t born an artist; I became one
Paul Odekerken was born in 1952 in Hoensbroek, some 25 kms to the east of Maastricht, in a family with a strong tradition in the commercial bread and pastry baking industry. While his two elder brothers were groomed to take over the family business, Oderkerken from an early age decided to do something completely different. “I used to make a lot of things with my hands when I was a child”, Odekerken remembers, “and ended up going to art school.”
In 1973 Odekerken started studying Sculpture at the Academy of Applied Arts in Maastricht. This was the first step into what would become a rich and lengthy academic journey, which continued with Art education at the same institution and Painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the neighbouring Belgian city of Liège.
Odekerken returned to Maastricht after being admitted at the exclusive Jan van Eyck Academy, a prominent open institute for research and production in fine art, design and theory, where he further improved and developed his own style. “Jan van Eyck is an institute that provides one-on-one education. Artists and researchers from abroad are invited to guide and work together with students.”
By studying art in depth and from various angles and working with artists such as Malene Dumas, Odekerken was able to advance from craft to concept. His artistic identity took form and became more defined after a few stays abroad. His works were exhibited in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.
Living on art
This extended study period however also revealed him an uncomfortable truth, namely that it was difficult to make a living purely out of an artist’s genuine, untouched and honest reflection.
A sculptural translation of a wave
Odekerken decided to take a turn at self-employment and founded the Odekerken Céramique Company. He created ceramics and ceramic models, which could be put into serial production and sold to retailers. The experience didn’t last very long though: “I realized that I needed a greater degree of artistic expression,” he says.
Nowadays, Odekerken focuses on interior design, and his list of collaborators include Pols Potten, Domani or Haans : “I first create the concept and discuss it with my associates to see what we can do with it, where we can produce it, etc. Then we then take it to one of the factories we work with, in China or Hungary, and they produce a prototype.”
The details of this vase are rough, unpolished, masculine and playful
His creations are on display twice a year at the Maison & Objet Fair in Paris, which is known as the show for home fashion amongst connoisseurs. These exhibitions have yielded high-end customers from Macao, Sidney, Boston, Santa Fe, Dubai and Moscow.
In Maastricht, Paul Odekerken’s designs can be found in the guest rooms and courtyard garden of the landmark Kruisheren Hotel, as well as at the Michelin Star Beluga restaurant, Hotel Derlon and various interior design shops. His work is in keeping with the city’s strong tradition in ceramics.
A designer’s profile
Odekerken sees recent cultural developments in Maastricht in a positive light. “There are many important institutions in Maastricht, such as the Bonnefanten Museum and the Jan van Eyck Academy,” Odekerken says, “but the local public is still very regional in its behaviour and taste”.
Odekerken found the concept for this work in the print of his dog’s paw
For the artist, Maastricht University and the annual Antique Art Fair TEFAF play a significant role in improving the image of the city. “The employment opportunities at the university have brought many foreigners to the region, not only Europeans, but people from Canada, the US and even Australia. And TEFAF has helped to place Maastricht on the map, certainly within the art world.”
Nevertheless, Odekerken sees originality in another, perhaps unexpected, event: “Carnival is pure Maastricht, it’s a time for the people living in the city to show their creativity by making and designing their own costumes”.
Besides creating ceramics, Odekerken also paints. But “Mostly, I’m a sculptor,” he says. “The way I paint is also like sculpting – it is almost 3D.”
A simple look at any ceramic vase or painting in his atelier betrays their creator’s love for textures that are transparent and mat, yet still have a raw quality. “I like structure, and I am honest with materials. I don’t work with ceramic as if it’s wood. I like to give a bit of an archaeological feeling to my work,” Odekerken explains.
Multi-layering: using materials that come out of the canvas, creating a three-dimensional dynamic surface
Odekerken’s three-dimensional painting technique stimulates the imagination and allows the beholder to project himself into the object.
“Art is about communication. So deep that it triggers a change in attitude,” he says. “When viewers determine the logic of my art, I surprise them with a new detail that grasps their attention.”
“Just as with religion, the message in art is very important,” he adds.
“I want to try and steer the individual towards a spiritual appreciation of the object, something that makes him/her delve deeper into its origin.”
By Catalina Goanta
Catalina Goanta, the eternal Master student sailing from one UM Faculty to another.