Essay Gijs Frieling - Atlas

Essay by professor Bernard Colenbrander on the occasion of the assignment for a work of art in the Atlas building being awarded to Gijs Frieling:

Atlas, the renovated Main Building that is to reopen next year, will be adorned with a work of art from the outset. It will be applied by the muralist Gijs Frieling, and it will consist of a series of wall paintings all over the interior of the building. The approximately fifteen proposed images are based on the visual culture of the (exact) sciences. How are results of academic research illustrated? Which graphic conventions apply, and which developments in these may be discerned in the course of time?

A series of trials for the work of art in Atlas were already put on display in the Auditorium in the spring of 2018.  

Frieling conceived the idea for his new work by closely studying book covers of great scientific works. The design fits into the figurative tradition of Pop Art. That is why the selected images are not adopted without any further action, but are first reworked. They are taken away from their origins by copying them into paintings, enlarging them and to let them reappear in a new environment: as wall paintings in the Atlas building. By taking the visual culture of the book as a basis, the new work alludes in a slightly humorous way to its environment which sometimes, perhaps somewhat over-idealistically, is represented as a completely paperless space of work and study. A small editorial team consisting of Bernard Colenbrander, Joep Huiskamp, Harry Lintsen and Johan van Leeuwaarden assisted Gijs Frieling in the selection of appropriate images.

Frieling's work fits into the tradition of figurative mural painting, which is one of the most persistent forms of human art ever since the Lascaux cave paintings. This tradition had a huge impact on for example religious iconography, but curiously enough had far less influence on the world of science.

An attractive feature will be that the public may follow the creation of the new work of art 'live' as the Atlas building reaches completion. For several weeks a team of painters will be busy realizing the project in full view of the Atlas community.