My name is Marjolein Witte (Eindhoven, 1979) and I studied Fine Art at the University of Arts in Utrecht (2002). My body of work stems from one personal question: how do I take up space? My research into the possibilities in doing this, leads me along human and animal territorial expressions. I make use of media like painting, installation art, photography and film. My work is characterized by colour explosions, geometric forms, big angular installations and plant confetti.
“Years ago, someone told me I could make myself invisible. At that time I didn’t refer to myself as an artist. I was long since graduated from Art Academy, but didn’t know how to handle it professionally. My work was occasionally seen in an exhibition or during an open studio. Both as an individual and as an artist I made myself unseen. Unwittingly. Until the day that remark came and I started a residency in Northern Germany short after. I turned my visual research inward: how do I take up space? This resulted in filmed self-portraits, a personal route through the surroundings visualized in a series of paintings, and a marked territory in the garden of the residency. I was inspired by territorial expressions of people and animals; such as signal colours, boundary fences or the warning sounds of crickets in a field.
We spend our daily lives trying to find our place in the world, as individuals and as a group. We do this through very small and very large actions. Taking up space includes being yourself, forming an identity, presenting yourself, controlling your environment, feeling safe and more. All these things have a physical and visual component. This is what I work with. I study the world of architecture, public space, the plant and animal kingdom and human nature. I play with the effects of colour and patterns, format, arrangement and with text as a visual element. Sometimes location or theme are decisive for making a work.
By taking up space, the need arose to step out of the painter’s flat plane and start making three-dimensional work. I have developed into an installation-building painter and am concerned with questions such as: how can I occupy an exhibition space? How can I create a presence? What do patterns, colors and shapes do to the viewer? How do I translate taking up space and having control? Which visual elements can you use to radiate power, attract attention or distract?”
Masterly Women, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
‘The works of these four ladies [Nicky Assmann, Jacoba van Heemskerck, Marjolein Witte and Lou Loeber] reinforce each other so well that only the ensembles in the last room are worth a visit to this exhibition.’ (Parool about the Masterly Women exhibition)
‘And the cheeky sculpture by Marjolein Witte is present without fading the beauty of the modest Lou Louber.’ (Kunstblijfteenraadsel about the Masterly Women exhibition)
The Nature of Things, Studio Seine Rotterdam
Roeland Merks (Scientist, Professor in Mathemathical Biology, art collector) at the opening of The Nature of Things (2019).
“We see the theme of framing nature in the photo Climate Correction by Marjolein Witte. It shows a square part of a frozen lake in Finnish Lapland; it is framed by black desert sand. With the title there it becomes almost apocalyptic. Is this the last piece of ice that we will have left? Can we still “correct” the climate? At least not with the black sand that lies here. The dark material frames the ice, perhaps in an attempt to protect it. But here, the framework is a threat. The dark color makes the sun melt the ice faster.
We also personally frame our view when dealing with nature. That illustrates the installation of Marjolein Witte. With scissors she processes the leaves of house plants. She cuts them square, or cuts holes in the leaves. This is how a new plant is created. And that causes inconvenience to the viewer. Or even anger. But why actually? I find that interesting about this work. Witte controls nature. What is the difference with the gardener who puts the secateurs in the hedge? What is the difference with a Dutch forest? What is the difference at all with a plant in a pot? They are all ways in which we, as humans, control nature. Yet we are familiar with the one, while the unknown scoures.
Witte apparently touches an open nerve here. We seem to feel the inconvenience about dealing with nature only with new, unknown forms of modification. Only then do we wonder whether it is “okay” or ethical. In her work, Witte investigates an interesting fact that is very dear to me as a scientist. Consider public opinion about genetically modified organisms or stem cells. Or think of the resistance to vaccinations. Yet the result, precisely because of the abrasive discomfort, is beautiful to see.”