FANTAST IN FOCUS: MICHIEL SCHRIJVER
You don’t need to stow away on a flying galleon captained by pirates named Hook and Smee to visit these summer lands. Michiel Schrijver’s art is like an airship’s observatory room, providing crystal-clear panoramas of gleaming cities and archipelagoes. His worlds are completely imaginary, but their trace similarities to real destinations–like Venice, Santorini, and the Amalfi Coast–make it difficult to resist grabbing a passport and making a wild dash to the nearest airport. We caught up with Michiel to find out more about his truly cosmopolitan artworks.
The Custodian: Air appears to be a central theme in all of your works. Each one is a swooping flyby, giving viewers a bird’s-eye view of your cityscapes. When and why did you choose to adopt this soulful effect?
Michiel Schrijver: Well. I wouldn’t know. Of course, I can look back into my files and look at each individual painting from many years back. And somewhere you would be able to find a slow change in themes and atmosphere. But I don’t want to think about that too much and I don’t want to be too aware of what appears on my canvases. It’s all about a world where I want to be although it’s not only a pleasant place. There is always the possibility of the opposite.
C: You say that “travel fuels the imagination”. What about ‘dream-sailing’? Have any of your dreams influenced your art?
M: Travel fuels the imagination. Indeed. But I am not a great traveller in a literal sense. My imagination takes me away into my own world but –for me- it has nothing to do with dreaming. Frequently people compliment me with my rich fantasy but I always tell them I don’t have much of it. I do know that I have a well-developed visual memory which enables me to create that personal world.
C: What about real-life places? You grew up in the Netherlands, but all of your artworks also have a Mediterranean flavour to them.
M: As I have mentioned before the scenes I paint belong to my world. Impressions which I pick up from the outer world I bring back to my inner world and store them there waiting to be used one day. Indeed, I was born and raised in the Netherlands but my paintings are far away from the Dutch landscape tradition. Just as you mentioned that they have a Mediterranean flavour to them many people who see my work get reminded of their journeys to sunny places. I always tell them that my world doesn’t exist and you won’t be able to find it. It only exists in my head.
C: Who are your biggest architectural influences?
M: Of course, I am fascinated by architecture. From Classical architecture up to present day design, I find it all interesting enough to follow. But I don’t get influenced by particular styles or periods. You could even suggest that my buildings are not made to live in. They don’t have many windows. Maybe they only ‘suggest’ to be houses. It’s about an essence of a building. Call it ‘house-ness’.
C: The earth, sky, and sea in your paintings always outshine the human figures. What’s the reason for this?
M: The human figure is at present but doesn’t seem to play a very important role. That is very true. My interest is more into the environment where people are living in then in themselves. There is no particular reason for that. It probably says more about myself.
C: Where are you exhibiting next? Any shows in the U.K.?
M: For the last twenty or so years I mostly exhibited with galleries and museums in Holland. My next show this autumn will be at Slot Zeist in the middle of the country. It will be partly a retrospective and partly a show with new work, supported by a new book and a short documentary. I used to be in cooperation with an Oxford-based gallery but things didn’t work all that good. So if you have any suggestions for good professional galleries in England, please let me know.