The naivety and oddity in the practice of Maarten Baas

Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas reflects on his works that straddle between art and design, object and performance, playful and intense, all at the same time.

by Rahul Kumar Published on : Jul 18, 2020

Dutch designer and artist Maarten Baas grew up in the southwest and central region of The Netherlands. His practice is often described as one that lies on the boundary of art and design and he likes to call himself an “author designer”. Most of his iconic works are playful and theatrical. There is often a rebellious tone to his renditions, oriented towards a deeper and intense expression. His design sometimes originates from what he calls ‘naïve sketches’ repurposed into three-dimensional forms. The playful, mindless and childlike drawings become the basis of the sculpted forms, retaining its oddities and keeping technical issues like centre-of-gravity irrelevant. Of course, structural safety is manged through the hidden counter weights, but care is taken to keep those away from the integrity of the visible form.  

02 mins watch Schiphol clock by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Schiphol clock Video Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas

Over the years, Baas’s works have been acquired by major museums including the MoMA, Victoria & Albert Museum, Les Arts Decoratifs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Rijksmuseum. The works have also found their way into significant private collections like that of Brad Pitt, Kanye West, Ian Schrager and Adam Lindemann. Some of Baas’s designs have been exclusively created for Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Dior, Dom Ruinart and Berluti.

Schiphol Clock created by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas in 2016 | STIRworld
Schiphol clock created by Maarten Baas in 2016 Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas
02 mins watch Real Time: Self Portrait Clock | Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Real Time: Self Portrait Clock Video Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas

The idea of time in works that straddle performance (consuming time) and art/design (consuming space).

Time is a nice thing. It’s typically a human idea to have a suggestion to understand it, by making clocks and digits. But in the end, we really have no clue. We only can relate it to ourselves. That’s what I like to play with.

Smoke Hill House Chair (BURNING) by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas | STIRworld
Smoke Hill House Chair (BURNING) Image Credit: Bas Princen
Smoke Zig Zag Chair by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Smoke Zig Zag Chair Image Credit: Marielle Leenders

The idea of beauty and its application to art and function

My graduation project revolved around research on beauty and perfection. In nature, everything is in flux, which creates a certain beauty. Yet, it’s a very human tendency to keep things as they are supposed to be and keep them beautiful as they originally were. My series titled 'Smoke' plays with both perceptions of beauty. After the pieces are burnt, they are preserved in a clear epoxy resin, which makes them usable again.

Clay table and lamp by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Clay table and lamp Image Credit: Frank Tielemans
Clay table with drawer by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Clay table with drawer Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas
Clay table and chairs by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Clay table and chairs Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas

The idea behind the series titled ‘clay’

I used industrial clay to make bold, brightly coloured, playful forms of furniture. These are spontaneous and naïve designs and each work is made by hand without the use of any mould. Sometimes the surface is painted and at other times the pigment is added to the medium of clay itself.  

Sweeper Clock by Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas| STIRworld
Sweeper Clock Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Baas

The idea of unsustainable life through the film: Somewhere in the future, somewhere in Western Europe

In the corona times, things were a bit standing still, while all kind of dystopic scenarios were going around. "The world will never be the same" and so... My response was to exaggerate that feeling, to make fun of the darkest scenario, which isn’t that unrealistic in the end. Embrace your biggest fears!

Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas | STIRworld
Maarten Baas Image Credit: Kenton Thatcher

Ongoing and upcoming works

A new work will be placed for a huge library in The Netherlands, it’s called ‘intellectual heritage’ and shows a lot of intellectual themes, names and quotes. Yet, they are presented in a ‘Las Vegas’ kind of style, with flashy neon signs and cheap typography. It says something about the library, which contains so many brilliant books and ideas, whereas it’s in nowadays world, where you have to be sure to be loud enough.

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