Studio Shenzhen(China), 2017


Mine is the art of residual reprocessing, the transformation of waste - scavenged from my environment - into a kind of visual poetry. My feeling - that beauty is concealed in everything for those who wish to see it - is of course a luxury. Though it is also a mentality, based on the urge to create: a freedom of the imagination and the universal capacity for improvisation, which has shaped the face of Western art for more than a century.

Since 2013 I have lived and worked in Shenzhen, a brand new city of thirteen million inhabitants in Southeast China. In my neighborhood the very poor scavenge their livelihood from the mountains of debris produced daily. They rummage through garbage bins, methodically selecting and collecting: plastic, glass and metal, paper and cardboard, anything to make a living.
In spite of the obvious differences, I identify on a very elementary level with these people and their work. And they, in turn, recognize something of themselves in me: a Western stranger who collects cardboard. The ‘why’ is a mystery to them, which I - as their first neighborhood artist- hope to reveal.

In China I started a series gouaches on cardboard packaging, using the corresponding brand names (IKEA, LIPTON, AÌ MEĬ TEÌ etcetera) as titles for the pieces. These titles are obviously meant as a pun about (over)consumption as a new ‘religion’ and a threat to our planet.
A cardboard box, taken apart and stripped back to its original flat shape, is an inexhaustible mine of possibilities for the artist.
My procedure is simple. I take the box apart and stretch it flat – in the same way as a hunter might prepare the hide of an animal - with the inside out. I start the composition by folding over every single pliable part in every possible direction and draw its contours on the surface of the main body. In this way a geometrical pattern comes into existence; an interplay of shapes and shadow forms. From that point the painting takes off. During the process I might respect the logic of the construction and stay neatly between the lines. In others I jump out of the box and start a free improvisation in which coincidence and errors might play a role. In this way, I use the latent possibilities of an ordinary cardboard box to create visual poetry.

Out of the Box
Non-figurative or abstract art is universal, rooting in the oldest known human expressions. What I like about abstract art, apart from going back to basics, is that form, line and color, exist in their own right; independently of any recognizable image. What discriminates my compositions from pure intuitive expressions is their inner logic. They speak to the senses as well as to the mind, while giving free scope to the imagination. For the same reason my art reaches beyond the restrictions of a framed image and can be a source of inspiration for architects and designers, thus being part of visual culture and everyday life.


Riet van der Linden
Shenzhen, 2017