Leon van den Eijkel
Leon van den Eijkel was born in Holland and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague. He has lived and worked in New Zealand since the late eighties, his works becoming a familiar sight across sculpture trails and within major public and private art collections across the country. Over his 30 year career, van den Eijkel has not limited himself to one art making practice, but rather has produced lightboxes, paintings multimedia installations, and sculptures - even including the classic Kiwi bbq - that utilise reflective surfaces and colours that are often based on his continuing dialogue between his homeland, the Netherlands, and the Pacific. Some of van den Eijkel's more well-known works include the Red Cloud Confrontation in Landscape (1996) which peeps out of Gibbs farm, watching the water in the Kaipara harbour, and Urban Forest (2007) which listens to the winds blowing in from the Cook Strait to Wellington’s Evan’s Bay.
“For a long time I didn’t think about the past, just looked forward, but I don’t want to forget the past and the positive, rich memories of my childhood.” One particular memory was unlocked when the artist experienced his first sunrise in New Zealand. The distinct, unusual colours of a New Zealand sunset reminded him of being a young boy and visiting the seeing Mondrian’s The Red Cloud (1907) during a school trip to the Municipal Museum in The Hague. Even at that young age he remembers thinking “Wow, how can you have a red cloud?”. This moment was the instigator of the style and palette Leon van den Eijkel is known for. He combines the modernist styles of geometric abstraction like De Stijl and Mondrian with a fresh perspective on the Pacific.
Leon van den Eijkel's exploration of colour developed further after moving to Wellington, New Zealand in 1996. Soon after, he “came up with the concept of creating a new palette of colour”. By watching the sunset over one summer/spring period the artist discovered 193 new colours to add to his palette- these are his Pacific Colours.
van den Eijkel describes his use of colour as ‘colour coding’, which, he claims, ‘perfectly balance the thin line between urbanisation and nature. There is a tremendous capacity for variation, especially when various colours are combined. Selection and limitation of the colours, however, guarantee a solid structure that is nonetheless free of rigidity as a result of this elastic and broad method.”
Inspired by his interactions with Maori artists and their conversations about their art ancestors, van den Eijkel has claimed Mondrian as his own, thanks to the artist’s restricted palette and examination of colour.
van den Eijkel has several works in the National collection at Te Papa and major collections across New Zealand, and can also boast inclusion in prestigious collections across the Netherlands and in New York. His most recent show at the Asterisk, Listening to the Future (March 2019), featured his colour blocked canvas sculptures.
“Like coloured windows, van den Eijkel’s walls of unique Pacific colours speak more to us than the stained glass church windows of an old and tired Europe.”- Brian Richards