NRC – Levi van Veluw

Breathtakingly beautiful and desponding
‘The Relativity of Matter’ takes visitors on a hallucinatory, mental trip. Without a doubt the most spectacular exhibition of the year.

It was without a doubt the most spectacular exhibition of the year. In the mystical, all absorbing total installation The Relativity of Matter, which Levi van Veluw (1985) set up at Marres in Maastricht last fall, visitors were taken on a hallucinatory, mental trip that ran through ten different rooms. All one’s senses were working overtime to (unsuccessfully) understand the disorganized, disarranged mass of seemingly distant or seemingly close-by things one could perceive in the dark. Van Veluw, who graduated in 2004 from the Academy of Arts in Arnhem and who became renowned for his highly aesthetic, meticulously executed videos, photos, drawings and installations, presents the sequel to Marres in gallery Ron Mandos in Amsterdam. The Monolith, which encompasses virtually all conceivable media that fan out from a large cube-shaped, black-stained walnut building that is obviously reminiscent of the Kaaba in Mecca. This building can be accessed as well. Once inside one is immersed in the mind of the artist/metallurgist.

Claustrophobic magnitude
There, sitting in the dark, is not just one holy stone, but hundreds of pieces of jet black charcoal, some polished and shiny, others frayed or beaten to dust. There is a desk with a stool. The walls are lined from top to bottom with type case boxes, filled with pieces of coal.
Upon entering the gallery spaces from within this darkness, the visitor is confronted with Van Veluw’s mental world which unfolds in its full, yet also claustrophobic magnitude. There are charcoal drawings of out-of-plumb architectural structures. There are ink-black desks with drawers full of coal and sometimes a wonderful surprise between the slits (kneeling required). There are black wall reliefs – grids reminiscent of the minimalist works of Jan Schoonhoven, that shimmer and tantalize in an oppressive manner. And there is a deep basin filled with immersed tables and chairs, illuminated in a very sophisticated manner.
The new work of Van Veluw is not cheerful. Nor is it exhilarating. It is breathtakingly beautiful and desponding. For the monolith and charcoal do not offer a way out.

ABOUT Levi van Veluw

Levi van Veluw was born in the city of Hoevelaken in 1985. He lives and works near Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Over the past 15 years, Van Veluw has produced a diverse and evolving oeuvre that is exhibited all around the world. He is known for installations, sculptures, drawings, and autobiographical films that draw from his childhood memories. From the depths of his memory, the artist unearths images that provoke universal emotions and question our human logic. Van Veluw plays with elements of order and chaos, posing to the viewer questions about our obsessive pursuit of control.

Van Veluw creates his works with extreme care and craftsmanship; his sculptures of clay and wood are made entirely by hand, giving them an authentic, coarse, and organic character. His intricately built-up charcoal drawings show great symmetry and harmony, whilst his remarkable use of light evokes a strong, meditative mood. The installations by Van Veluw offer intense and immersive experiences. In the past, he has built complete, though fictional cathedrals – amongst other dark and sensory spaces built of obscure forms and materials. Visitors that enter Van Veluw’s alternate realities become disassociated from their existing spatial interpretations. They experience a disruptive environment where both order and chaos live one amongst the other.

The work of Van Veluw has been exhibited internationally in leading museums and institutions worldwide, such as the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Ars Electronica, Linz; Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City; Design Museum, London; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and Marres House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht, amongst others. His work is included in both public and private collections, such as the Borusan Collection, Istanbul; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; Museum MORE, Gorssel; the KPMG Art Collection, Amstelveen; the Ekard Collection, Wassenaar; the Lakeside Collection, Rotterdam, and Cobra to Contemporary/The Brown Family Collection.

Additionally, Van Veluw has worked on commissions for private clients. Within these commissions he has undertaken many collaborations. In 2012, Van Veluw worked alongside curator Marc Coetzee on the film “Family”, produced as part of the “Films4peace” project. In 2014, working alongside Hermès, Van Veluw created a life-sized site-specific installation for one of their main windows in Shanghai. Van Veluw has also participated in international film festivals, including Addis Foto Fest, Addis Ababa; Afrika Film festival, Leuven; Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, Port of Spain, and West Midlands Human Rights Film Festival, Birmingham.