untitled (bull and fish, pastoral)
untitled (Jupiter in bed)
Installation view at Big Art, Amsterdam, 2022
series 'Inderterminate'
Untitled from the series 'Limp Wrist'
series 'Limp Wrist'
series '...and suddenly, all is revealed'
It turned out it wasn't a situation, but a person
Installation view of diorama 'Window'
Installation view '...and suddenly, all is revealed'
'Haphazard monsters', installation view at galerie dudokdegroot, Amsterdam
I'm a myth
'Algorithm corrupted (though sheer comedy, of course)', installation view
Installation view 'Algorithm corrupted (though sheer comedy, of course)'
Da-ta, da-ta
untitled (crouching figure)
Cover girl
Group show Loods 6
three bearded baby's
The Foundling
Three figures in an artificial surrounding
White sheet
Mirror no. 2
untitled (figure seen from below)
untitled (figure seen from below)
'The future is old', installation view
You may grow up to be a fish
Straight story
The middle place
Roberte wants to be kidnapped
Th future is old
The fraud
In the hedge
'How does your garden grow?', installation view
Nurse with cup of hot choco
Doctor putting on gloves
A company of three
untitled (tree)
untitled 5, from the series The teddy-bear conventions
Boy and militaryman
Sketch book
Sketch book

The changing (un)reality

Doede Hardeman, curator modern art, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

In the past two decades new media have led to an enormous increase in communication. Every day, via internet, video games, TV and the papers, we are inundated with an overwhelming quantity of images that we use to create a world of heroes, antiheroes and idols. The only way one can cope with this image bombardment is to scan it rapidly and respond with an instant opinion. For or against, good or bad and black or white. Apparently shades of grey don’t exist. A logical consequence of this is a lack of depth and of nuance, and this in turn is the subject of a much-aired criticism of our society.

In the world that Marijn Akkermans presents us with one encounters nothing but subtle distinctions. Nothing is what it seems here. Using pencils, ink, acrylic, lacquer and collage, he creates a suffocating, provocative and confrontational world. His figures loom out of a clinical white background like silhouettes in a feverish dream. The viewer is confronted with figures that are recognizable but hard to put a finger on – nurses and doctors from a hospital, soldiers and mothers. They are usually archetypes with a responsible, protective and dominant character. They are people to whom in normal life we might frequently submit ourselves both physically and mentally, the sort of people one might put one’s trust in, because they protect you in crucial moments. But Marijn Akkermans’s scenes rarely feel really familiar. Depicted a little larger than they are in reality, it is above all the dominating character of these figures that strikes one. These people are supposed to protect us, but in fact they seem to have a quite different agenda. The slightly overdone smile of the nurse arouses one’s suspicion. Despite the fact that she is bringing you a cup of hot chocolate, you feel uncomfortable rather than set at ease (‘Night Nurse with Cup of Hot Chocolate’, P. 35). The size of the doctor’s hands combined with his menacing gaze makes one suspect his good intentions (‘Doctor’, P. 38). There is no simple ‘for or against’ or ‘good or bad’ in these images; at most, one sees a degree of ‘black or white’ in the sharp contrasts that are so typical of these works. These images are familiar enough but at the same time they make one feel uncomfortable. The deliberate blowing up of his figures make you feel small as though you were a child again.

Marijn Akkermans’s drawings are the product of an intuitive approach. Detailed, sophisticated and well developed, they testify to an extremely concentrated working method. There are almost no visible corrections; all there is is clean white paper framing the scene. This does not mean however that the work is so planned in advance that no changes can occur during the process. As Akkermans himself puts it, ‘I start intuitively and then follow what the drawing gives back to me.’ A pencil drawing is usually the departure point, after which the artist develops the scene further with ink, lacquer, acrylic paint and collage. This technique makes for a layered character in the work with plenty of contrasts which the artist exploits to give greater emphasis to various parts of his scenes.
    The use of pencil and diluted ink gives the works a transparency that highlights their sensitive character. But apart from this intuitive and detailed working method, his drawings are also distinguished by a formalist quality that can be seen in the way the scenes are differentiated. One sees it in the exploration of a pattern in clothing, the saturated black surface of a jacket, the white silhouette of a hand or the sensitive expressivity of the pelt of a teddy bear. These features certainly reinforce the sensual experience of the scene, but they also have a value as form. In terms of content too, the works are both intuitive and formalist. The scenes are surrounded by a host of meanings that are nourished by the clichés that are so typical of the archetypes portrayed, such as the dominance and eroticizing of the uniforms of the doctor and nurse and the innocence of the teddy bear (a recurring element in a series of 11 works, the ‘Teddy Bear Conventions’). In the end however they are just bits of fabric with a polystyrene stuffing. And the figures too are often literally lacking in content. Like the teddy bear, the man without arms is entirely stuffed with polystyrene.

Marijn Akkermans’s scenes are based on the way we observe people. While his works may be very personal, this just means that he gives priority to the universal interpersonal relations that we are all familiar with. His works confront us then with mutual hierarchies, with our own anxieties and longings and our own self-image that is affected by a constantly changing reality. It is a reality that is subject both to the universal process of ageing and to the changing world around us. Although his scenes have an immediate bearing on the image bombardment we are exposed to every day, the system of rapid scanning and responding with an instant opinion is not possible here. It leads inevitably to questions that put us in a critical frame of mind, making us aware of the way that we experience our world. It is a process that continues to fascinate.

Taken from "Back Then, The World Was Bigger", monograph Marijn Akkermans, published by galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, 2008