It comes as no surprise, that an art gallery as versatile as No Man’s Art Gallery, consistently presents artworks that move us beyond the boundaries of the everyday. With its unique pop-up concept, No Man’s Art Gallery questions the constraint we call “location” on a gallery’s ability to showcase its artists, thus allowing the art gallery and the artists themselves to, for lack of a better word, spread their wings and reach wider audiences.
This brings us to their latest exhibition titled, “Taking Off,” which unveils the elevating works of Dutch artist, Mattijn Franssen. Franssen’s oeuvre, aside from paintings that echo a hybrid between Picasso and Haring, consists mainly of photo montages. In an interview, Franssen looks back on the process: “It’s kind of silly, I know, but also a subtle way to call attention to the ‘unreality’ of what you see.” Silly is one way of putting it, since the works do convey a yearning towards childhood, especially in those featuring different animals, such as “Escaping the Madness” or “Discussing the Elephant.” Perhaps not a yearning for childhood on Franssen’s own part, but more so a reminder of the fundamental intuition that we often lose as we get older. Franssen calls it silly; I’d rather call it silliness with profundity.
The same ideas are especially at play in “Roadside Attraction,” where we see the artist sitting naked on a roadside bench with his cat, Pino, overlooking some lush scenery. What’s striking initially is the play on words. The “roadside attraction” on one hand might be for the potential passers-by (who are only evoked in the artwork, rather than depicted) who see the naked man sitting on a bench with his cat. But the real “roadside attraction” for Franssen, is just the act of sitting, free and uninhibited, enjoying nature. What actually resonates, however, is the fact that Franssen somehow completely re-normalizes this natural act of repose, that we, as a society have come to see as eccentric or offbeat.
It seems that the influence of the English Romantics never ceases, but, as Franssen states, his works are also inspired by Dutch painter Carel Willink and magic realism. Not to be confused with Surrealism, which unites elements of the subconscious and the conscious, magic realism juxtaposes what’s already out there in the everyday and presents them in a fresh way.
For Franssen, “what fascinates me is the power and ability that photomontage gives me to create a world the way I imagine it, a place I’d like to hang out in.” So if you’re looking to get away from it all, go and hang out in Franssen’s world at No Man’s Art Gallery, located (for now!) on the Nieuwe Herengracht 119.