Persona April, 1st 2021 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 309 - Gijs Assmann

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 309 – Gijs Assmann
Three artists: Gijs Assmann, Jonat Deelstra and Rinke Nijburg took part in an exhibition in the GoMulan Gallery in the winter months of 2021 entitled ‘Rituelen & Bezweringen’ (Rituals & Incantations). These artists took a closer look at the human being who tries to survive through all kinds of rituals as individual and as social animal.

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Gijs Assmann showed sculptures and drawings from the period 2017-2020 that refer to human emotions, birth, death and transience, the facts of life. I see the Virgin Mary designed in layered glass sculptures, an aluminum balloon on a Brodie, a hard steel English army helmet from the Second World War, as well as various drawings and collages with eroticism, sexuality, love and hope as subjects.

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Not straight from heaven
On a Friday afternoon in March, I speak to the maker amid his works in the gallery. Gijs Assmann is a versatile artist who works with a variety of materials such as bronze, aluminum, tin, wood, textiles, ceramics and glass in his sculpture installations. Acrylic paint, watercolor, pencil and pen form the basis for his drawings and collages.
Art does not just happen, he says. There is always a tradition to which you relate and which gives the works extra meaning. He therefore agrees very well with this exhibition. Gijs Assmann: “So I don’t follow Rudi Fuchs’ adage that a genius work falls vertically from the sky, as if it could stand on its own, without a previous history or origin. In my work I want to testify to my place in traditions. ”

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Brother (frater) Wim
He deals with the major themes of life. “Faith, hope, love, fear of death. That is also a cliché. How do you really relate to this, do you do justice to the subject? You can draw a big red heart, but that is too simple for me. ”
A few years ago – after a major operation – the urgency to create new work seemed gone. A friend suggested a working period as artist in residence in the guest studio of a cloister hotel, Kloosterhotel ZIN in Vught, where he could get back on track. He went there. “There was Brother Wim. He had the same (Catholic) religious background as I do. I could talk well with him. I myself am originally from West Brabant, where Zeeland Calvinism casts its shadow on the Catholic South. In Vught it was so much more relaxed and earthy. This resulted in a different, lighter seriousness with more room for doubt. ‘Hereafter?’ ‘God?’ I don’t know either, said Brother Wim. ”


Assmann’s mother had a Catholic father and a Reformed mother. “My father was a pathologist in his working life with an obsessive interest in the Holocaust. Descent is formative. The question of the great evil, a moral compass and attention to my own spiritual life has influenced me to a great extent. ”
Gijs made a selection from his father’s library and reproduced the images in a book entitled ‘Pathologist’. It shows photos without further explanation or comment. “In a way I talk to my father in my work. The designer had the images printed with 100% silver ink. It is therefore as if you are looking at a photo negative. In this way you are forced to focus and observe again. ”
His wife / girlfriend once remarked: “Why do artists – including you – so often have a fascination for the bilious, ugly and dirty?” “For me it is a matter of wanting to understand, search. The gate through which you enter my work is wide open and the threshold is low but when you are inside you will see things about me and yourself that you might not have known. ”

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Key work
This immediately leads to his key work. That was caused by his wife. “I met her eleven years ago. I was 44. She is my great love. I sent her a homemade birthday card with a text on the back.” He shows that first card. I see a big banana and a lot of hearts. The next day he sent another card, also in collage form, and then it went on, one day every day, up to this day.
It is a (visual) love letter and a kind of incantation. “A colleague said: it is a cry for attention, not just as attention for your girlfriend. It is making your presence known. ” A book has been made and there has been an exhibition about it. His wife made the selection of the book ‘for H.’, 320 images. In the museum, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, there was a selection of 1,000 collages on display in ‘for H.’

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Searching and not stuck in style
Incidentally, it was never originally intended as visual art. For him it is a daily ritual, the first thing he starts the day with. Sometimes it is done fast, sometimes it is really hard work. Making the collages has a different kind of urgency and gives him a different kind of freedom. “Versatile, serious, sometimes nice and silly and sometimes loving and comforting again. The collages take on the role that a sketchbook used to have for me: a place to organize ideas and record daily thoughts (visually). For that reason, the collages have become an increasingly important basis for my drawings, sculptures and statues in public space in recent years. ”
The book contains everything he hopes he can do. “It is an attempt to relate to the major themes in a practical and direct way. I don’t want abstract concepts in images. It is searching and not stuck in style. There are inconsistencies, I do not work from certainty, but from a question. I am not a know-it-all, I am not above, but next to the viewer. ”

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In 2018, after a competition, Assmann was given the honorable assignment to create a work for the new headquarters of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the South Axis (Zuidas) in Amsterdam. He presented eighteen possible sketches for a sculpture to the responsible committee and eventually a winding line was chosen, based on a doodle drawing. One of the people on the committee recognized the spatial structure of protein molecules in the winding’s of the design. This fits nicely with the content of the EMA. A foundry in Pirna, Germany, completed the shiny work, ‘Pendulum’ in stainless steel, nine meters high. Assmann: “It is reminiscent of a ballerina, balancing effortlessly on one leg.”


The art life
What is his experience with art life? “I have the best profession in the world. But it is not easy. Being an artist is a profession, not just a spiritual vocation. A one-man business is tough. In addition, relating to the big questions of life is complex. You have to look life in the eye and testify about it. “
But all things considered, it’s fun. “I work with special people, do fun projects and visit wonderful places. And I share that. I am also a teacher in art education at the Base for Experiment, Art and Research (BEAR) Fine Art in Arnhem and the Master Contextual Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven. That is also very special. All in all, a very varied and rich life. ”
Finally, does it have a nice philosophical ending? He has. “I was trained at a time when style was very important. My teachers told me: you have to choose. After the Academy I thought: What do you mean? I am going to make two (or more) different kinds of works. I don’t want to profile myself with one style, but with my attitude. An exhibition of mine should almost, but not quite, resemble a group exhibition. I want to actively allow contradictions. That’s no mistake, ambiguity is the core of life and the essence of my work. ”


1) Gijs Assmann (with a painted portrait by Emo Verkerk), photo Hester Alberdingk Thijm, 2 – 4) ‘RITUALS & INCANTATIONS’, Gijs Assmann | Jonat Deelstra | Rinke Nijburg, GoMulan Gallery Amsterdam January 30 to March 7, 2021, photo Jonathan de Waart, 5) ‘Forshadowing (I)’, 2020, glass, wood, 0.40 x 0.21 x 0.18 m., Photo Friso Keuris, 6 – 7) ‘For H.’, 2019, ISBN 9789493146006, 336 pages, 332 color photos of a selection of decollages that Gijs Assmann has been sending to his beloved since 2009, 210 × 300 mm, edition of 1,000 copies, Design and editing: Gijs Assmann & Jurgen Maelfeyt (6’56 ″), 8) ‘For H.’, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, 10 October 2018 / m 3 February 2019, Presentation of a selection of 1,000 collages that Gijs Assmann sends to his beloved every day since 2009, photo Tom Haartsen, 9) ‘Pendulum’, 2020, sculpture for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Amsterdam, highly polished stainless steel, 9 , 07 x 4.50 x 4.20 m., Photo Friso Keuris, 10) ‘Pendulum’, 2020, ISBN / EAN: 978-90-9034123-1, 104 pages, 44 color photos, 240 x 320 mm, edition 1,000 copies, Photography Friso Keuris, Design Roel Klaverstijn, Text: Gijs Frieling | Gijs Assmann, Pendulum talks about the realization of the sculpture Pendulum for the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam.–9789090341224

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