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Andrée Van de Kerckhove (tr. Gerard van Vuuren) The Silence Factory.

Artist Evelyn Jansen. An art work on an acoustic laboratory

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The Silence Factory Artist Evelyn Jansen commissioned by Merford An art work on an acoustic laboratory

Context and commission
Right in the middle of the production hall of Merford’s brand-new factory – Noise Control – you will find a concrete bunker. This space is completely disconnected from the rest of the building. It is a unique area, specifically developed for testing and improving acoustic materials and products.

When Evelyn Jansen was commissioned to create an art work for the front wall of this space, the first thought that came to her was that Merford sells ‘silence’. The title of her art work, ‘The Silence Factory’ was derived from this initial idea. When she subsequently discovered the factory’s metal workshop, she knew that plate metal would be the starting point of her thinking process. Metal and silence would form the framework for her ideas. The art work became a sculpture spread across the entire front wall of the sound measuring bunker. It refers to the importance of knowledge of sound: to its force, tension and control by Merford, Noise Control.

Shape and impression

Going through the reception area, you enter the production hall in this beautiful and spacious building (designed by Architects Groeneweg & Van der Meijden). At the far end, Evelyn Jansen’s art work comes immediately into vision, as if it could fit on an A4-size sheet of paper. Keep on walking for a few dozen metres, and the art work reveals more and more of itself. You are pulled into the image. Details of shapes and materials become clearer with every step forward.

The art work is set in relief against the wall. You see trees and walk beside trunks. The tree trunks grow up from the earth. Circles are set into the background. These seem to move, each to its own rythm, like rising and setting moons in different phases. The art work is an expression of the silence and stillness experienced during a walk through the woods. Tree trunks have captured the passing of time, the sun creates shadows, and the phase of the moon sets the rythm.

Material and construction

Evelyn Jansen: “I wanted to add round shapes to this horizontal building with its vertical accents. Perfectly circular and with a smooth skin. I also wanted to add a diagonal, sensitively drawn line, visible in the shaping of tree trunks and shadows.”

‘The Silence Factory’ is an enormous work, measuring 15 by 7.5 metres. It is made from metal and mounted on wood: a steel forest on a wooden support. It was developed in the artist’s studio and on the computers of Merford’s engineers, and executed and produced with the latest laser-cutting machinery, at Merford factory.

Evelyn Jansen chose to use black steel. Both because the material ages in an interesting way, and because of the exquisite markings on its surface. The patina of the steel resembles the irregular growth patterns found in tree bark. The steel sheets have therefore all been used lenghtwise, just as the grain in wooden planks shows up best when used lengthwise.The rich range of colouring – from grey and black shades, rusty patches and red tints, to blues changing to silver – beautifully matches the natural wood and the large blue circles. These elements, 2 metres in diameter, were painted in the company’s own spray unit.

The force of silence.

The choice of materials from which the tree traunks are made, helps illustrate growth and development. You can see that the art work is made from a substance that ages slowly, like man. The internal layering of the work is also applied concretely, with the trunks and shadows assembled literally on top of the circles. Evelyn Jansen always works in layers, in her paintings, drawings and commissions. Shape and negative space are the connecting thread in her work, especially their shifting one in front of the other.rm en restvorm, maar vooral ook het voor en achter elkaar verschuiven van beide, zijn als een rode draad in haar werk. Because of these particular characteristics, the artist places ‘The Silence Factory’ within a long tradition of stylising in art. She manages to evoke memories of a number of interesting predecessors, owing to the stylistic qualities of the work and its being charged with stillness. Evelyn Jansen herself likes to point out her affinity with Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Nevertheless, my own thoughts concerning ‘The Silence Factory’ turn more towards the organic compositional decisiveness of the early expressionistic Mondrian – e.g. his ‘Woods near Oele’ (1908) – or towards certain works of artists that have been influenced by him, such as Clifford Still (1904-1980) or Mimmo Rotella (1981-2006).

These references point to a certain strength and expression. But in Evelyn Jansen’s work, on the other hand, there is a strong presence of a poetically sensitive elegance, which relates harmoniously to a graphic sharpness. A precision in form and content – which brings to mind the clever layering of trees reflected in water in M. C. Escher’s woodcut ‘Muddy Puddle’ (1952), or the silently shimmering, almost meditative simplicity found in prints by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

Art and technique/ Perfect Match

The production of ‘The Silence Factory’ became a joint project between the artist and the company. A synergy came into being. Merford’s knowledge and expertise became woven together with the artist’s concepts and creativity. Through art, Merford was able to reveal an essential aspect of its identity. And for Evelyn Jansen, whose work usually focuses on people, cooperating in this way with the client, was a true discovery. A perfect match was created, a combined vision of artist and company, manifesting itself in ‘The Silence Factory’.

Augustus 2009
August 2009 Andrée Van de Kerckhove (tr. Gerard van Vuuren)