Behind the scenes: Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
30th April 2021 | Behind the scenes
Dutch artist, Evi Vingerling, was commissioned to create two pieces of work for Spectrum, the two MICHELIN starred restaurant recently redesigned by G.A at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. The restaurant itself was designed as a beautiful blank canvas, a clean slate which allowed the plates of food coming out of the kitchen to be the star of the show. However, there are two paintings at opposite ends of the restaurant which lift the entire space, the expressive and vibrant work of Evi Vingerling.
Can you tell us a little bit about the way you work and your process?
My work is a result of how I live my life. For me since I was a child there are many moments of reflection. I’m sure I’m at least an aloof mother, hopefully not negligent, because of how often I am standing and taking note of my surroundings. I am amazed, enthralled, by the way things around us, with no seeming purpose fall into place in such a way that they feel so beautiful, rapturous to my eyes and mind. At moments the world around me falls into place, I think it’s a physical realization I have where the forms line up and it doesn’t matter if it’s the form of a leaf, bent so exactly to let a drop of water roll off like a marble or a group of threes or other things with the sun on them, or a mountain range spread open like a flower, I have, at such a moment, a strong sense that everything is part of the same. That there is an overall cohesion, I think this realization is so powerful because if everything is connected, so must I be. So the idea attaches me to this existence in a powerful way. Someone might mistakenly call it spiritual, but it is not, it is a very physical occurrence.
That’s what I try to paint. The drawings I use for the paintings are carbon tracings of printed out photos I make with my phone of the moments I think might be able to convey this euphoria.
I work with gouache in a silica base. I take a nap before I paint. The rest is pretty straight forward.
There is almost a mythology that exists around the way your work for Spectrum restaurant was created, am I correct in thinking that you spent a lot of time researching the area and the space, but that the actual paintings were produced quite quickly?
I do make my work relatively fast, although it usually takes a few hours, it’s not really “action painting” I move around pretty slowly.
I generally create work on my own terms and do not often work in a commission setting. In 2019 I had just finished a big commission where I painted four ceilings in a semi-public hall for a government institution when I received a call from the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam. I do think art can help in certain settings, to make people feel better about where they are and I was very curious why I was being asked for this project and thought it would be interesting to try and make something that would serve the purpose well.
I did indeed do a lot of research beforehand. My idea for the work was borne from the concept of the luxury hotel. Which as an extra deluxe setting in a normal world reminds me very much of the rococo which also happens to be the time in history the buildings the hotel is housed in were built. There are in the lobby many details of this time still visible, and I just love the Rococo. One of the most famous paintings from this time is the prolific soft coloured landscape “L’embarquement pour Cythere” by Jean- Antoine Watteau. In the painting a group of party goers is just leaving the island where Venus was born. The whole idea of the painting is the temporary nature of human joy. Which is pretty on the nose for a Michelin starred restaurant. I took the dimensions of this painting, it is a rather long, comfortable landscape composition, and decided the painting should be as lush.
The dining room of Spectrum is thoughtfully designed. My first impression was that there were subtle rich textures everywhere, the off-white linen wall coverings, soft grey tubular forms along the walls and the white linen covered table-tops each lit with its own set of halogen spot-lights were like a snowy forest with dapplings of sun. All of it was quiet for the mind. This I found very appealing. But later I started to wonder why I was asked to make something that would so determine the space. I decided to book a table and go see for myself. A few things struck me during the fabulous dinner experience. Other than a very large flower arrangement in the middle of the room, there was nothing to focus on. The dinner was stunning to see, but still there was an awful long time spent looking around the restaurant. I realized, anyone who was not facing the center of the room spent a great deal of time looking at a space meant to be a blank canvas, between courses.
I ended up making three works. Two based on the same drawing of a mountain range from the view point of an airplane passing overhead and another of a wooded area with a palm tree. The group chose the two mountain ranges to be hung on opposite sides of the dining room. This was extra to my delight- the restaurant is set quite low, just a bit under the ground, out the windows you see the world from a low place, I thought seeing the world from a higher place, however subliminal, would be uplifting.
Creating the work did take a few days, but compared to the research less, of course. The way I work I have to go into a great deal of concentration, it takes me a few hours to get into this spirit. Then I have to paint the work all at once because I have found if I leave and come back to the work my hand has changed and you can see a difference in the brush strokes.
Has your practice always revolved around painting and why is it your preferred way to explore your subject matter?
At school I studied sculpture the first few years as I found it a more dynamic way of working, only in my third year I discovered the production of the work created distance between myself and my idea. I was always having to organize things, as opposed to my painting practice, where my mind and my hand seemed one.
Your work is gestural and full of colour, where do you find inspiration?
The colors for my work, just as the compositions are taken from life, moments where my appreciation grows, where I suddenly see the world in splendour. I collect the color situations just as I collect the drawings and photos I make of the compositions, generally, with my phone. I will write down colors or take a picture and edit the colors so that the match what I see. There are often really unreal color situations all around us.
Are there any exciting projects lined up for you in the near future?
This September I will have a solo show at the gallery that represents me in Amsterdam, Tegenboschvanvreden, Also I have a solo show in the works at the Central Museum in Utrecht. That date is still a bit on the horizon due to Covid delays, but I am greatly looking forward to it.
To read more about the artist and view her work, head to her website:
Vingerling has exhibited widely within the Netherlands and abroad, and her work is represented internationally in both private and museum collections such as the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Evi is represented by tegenboschvanvreden in Amsterdam.