Karin Trenkel


I am fascinated by the immense amount of planning and efforts we carry out to design our environment so that it meets the requirements of all who live and work here. This tendency to believe in the potential of forming our own environment is particularly ubiquitous in the Randstad (Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam and their suburbs); a built up and densely populated area where one can’t help but notice how people have a hand in almost everything one sees. Even nature has become far more a product, designed to have an appearance that can be perceived as natural. Natural, but according to plan!

Where does this do-it-yourself attitude come from? I believe it has taken root in the Dutch; it has become literally and figuratively their second nature, because here in these ‘low lands’ more than 20 per cent of the land has been created through land reclamation. It is a mentality that has become embedded over time to gain more ground, and is apparent everywhere, in everything.

Because I’m an artist rather than an environmental activist, with a penchant for the unexplainable and poetic aspects of our existence, my eye often falls on absurd and surreal phenomena in the infrastructure. An example is how some reclaimed land is given back to ‘nature’ in the form of ‘re-creation’ areas.

These forms of absurdity are encountered in my own landscape creations in subtle and humorous ways. The absurd stems from the interplay between a strict and playful, or serious and naïve approach, and has to do with a driven but easy-going attitude. The materials chosen, as well as their application and use, usually also have absurd overtones. In the installation ‘Landscape with sheep’ for example, this becomes apparent in the depiction of sheep and fleecy clouds: a light and buoyant theme that acquires a heavy counterweight through the immense amount of work required to knot together plastic strips into a 24-square metre textile piece. The plastic used comes from bin liners, which contradicts the naïve-romantic image.

The formal aspects of my work reflect my interest in the bordering area between painting and sculpture. How can I translate an observation of my surroundings into a two as well as three-dimensional image, which makes possible both an optical illusion (intrinsic to the art of painting) and a physical experience (intrinsic to the art of sculpture)? To find a satisfying answer to this question, in recent years I’ve been making large-scale, three-dimensional collages from hand-painted paper, and sometimes from plastic. The presentation space performs the function of a monumental canvas, upon which classical – or clichéd – concepts about landscape/nature are depicted. In addition, the history of landscape painting is an essential point of departure in determining the subject to be depicted and its translation to the ‘canvas’.

I work with the tension between the actual space, the illusionistic quality of what is being portrayed and the physical presence of the materials used. The viewer observes a massive number of scraps of paper or strips of plastic, while the material as a whole depicts a landscape: a kind of three-dimensional impressionism contained within a collage. One’s perception vacillates between close-up and distant, between flat and spatial, and between reality and its abstraction.

For me, installations are like stage sets for, with and in a specific space. The characteristics of the space become points of departure in determining the nature and content of the installation. On location, I assemble the ‘pieces of scenery’ that I’ve constructed in my studio beforehand; if necessary the space is adapted, so that the scenery works with the space to become a new and unique whole. The play and the actors are absent from my installations – when visitors enter the set, they can be considered the actors and as such form an artificial part of the unnatural landscape.

english version