Meet the Nominees for the NN Art Award I: Maaike Kramer

N.O. (noordoostenwind)

For the eighth year in a row, the NN Art Award will be awarded to a promising artist who completed their studies at an art academy in the Netherlands and is exhibiting at Art Rotterdam. This year, for the first time, the nominees will exhibit their work in the leading Kunsthal Rotterdam, from 1 February to 14 April 2024. The nominated artists for the NN Art Award 2024 are Maaike Kramer (Art Gallery O-68), Mónica Mays (Prospects section of the Mondriaan Fund), Jan van der Pol (CREMAN & DE ROOIJ) and Peim van der Sloot (Brinkman & Bergsma).

Maaike Kramer's oeuvre stands out because of her diverse use of materials, including concrete, metal, graphite, paper, stone and wood. In her practice, Kramer combines robust, architectural elements with more sketch-like materials. This results in works that are often heavy, massive, and monumental, but also light, fragile and unstable. Sometimes these works also exhibit trompe-l'oeil effects. Kramer explores the dynamic interaction between these diverse and, at first glance, contradictory materials: can they learn from or borrow from each other? And what relationships do the works enter into with the spaces in which they are shown?

Maaike Kramer in her atelier

Kramer's art tells stories about the creative process and reflects on the spaces we create and inhabit. They invite contemplation on the nature of construction, the role of humans in shaping their environment, and the contrast between the transience of ideas and the durability of materials. Kramer emphasizes this: “Ideas are not as durable as the material in which they are captured.” In some cases, this line of thinking is reflected in her practice, for example when sketches are literally integrated into the work. Kramer: “I incorporate different stages of the creating process into my work; from the monumentality of the final work, to the materials and methods that lead up to it. Examples include sketches, documentary photography, and scale models in combination with concrete, steel, and scaling up. During the creating process, the work goes through various phase transitions, dictated by the materials and the methods. Sketches are given a sculptural translation, are photographed, printed, enlarged, cast and copied.”


Could you tell us a bit more about the work you are presenting at Art Rotterdam and in the Kunsthal? What led you to focus on ceramics in your newer works?
My work is about spaces, about architectural spaces as a metaphor for spaces in one’s mind. I also wanted to explore the space we inhabit more and felt that this required a new material. For this reason, I applied to the EKWC [European Ceramic Work Centre], where I completed a three-month residency program last year. There, I worked with ceramics for the first time and built spaces by hand, seeking ways in which form and material could give new meaning to space. For me, material is an active part of my story. It undergoes a transformation that allows a story to be told. At the EKWC, I ended up working with different types of clay with different levels of shrinkage, causing deformations and cracks during the process of drying and in the kiln. These works reflect on the space indoors. Some works are about the separation between the indoor and the outdoor. These are works I call 'luxaflex’. I will show some of these luxaflex sculptures at Art Rotterdam. Here, porcelain is connected to coarse black clay. This creates a side that faces outward, made of porcelain with a celadon glaze, and a side that faces inward. These parts influence each other. The coarse inner part causes the smooth porcelain outer part to deform. In the Kunsthal, I will present a large sculpture, made at the EKWC. This sculpture also represents a space, actually a 'slice' of a space. It’s a place in which room has been created for a game of sorts. I searched for a space in my own house that felt the most free and experimental, and ended up choosing my shed. In this fictional shed, game boards are stacked where strategies can be thought out, to possibly place them outdoors, in the world. However, the space is also very isolated. So will these ideas actually come out, and if so: how?


What are your plans for 2024? What are you currently working on?
I'm not done exploring ceramics and the various meanings that clay carries. I am also working on making combination works, in which different materials come together. The step to work spatially is still relatively new to me. Until recently I made primarily flat reliefs, folded sheets or flat stacked works. For my exhibition 'The Unbalancing Act' at Drawing Centre Diepenheim in 2022, I started making sculptures with a front, side, and back side for the first time.

Could you describe how you felt when you heard that you were nominated for the NN Art Award? What project would you immediately tackle if you were to win the award?
I was incredibly happy and surprised. This is actually the first time my work is being shown at Art Rotterdam — as well as the Kunsthal. If I were to actually win the award, I would invest in my studio. At this moment, my studio is not quite on par with my practice, which is progressively shifting towards sculpture. This requires more space, but also materials and tools. I would really love to have a ceramic kiln, for example.

Time is an Endless Shelter

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Maybe not advice per se, but rather something I have experienced myself. That making visual work is not about tomorrow's success or that one particular exhibition. But that you must feel that you need to make the work, for whatever reason. For many years I made work that no one saw. My work was first exhibited around 2017, when I had already been working for a few years. But that in fact gives me strength now, knowing that my inner creative engine will keep running.

What is the most remarkable compliment you have ever received about your work?
That it touches people without them being able to put their finger on why exactly. My work is not always immediately graspable or understandable in a single glance, but there is a kind of gut feeling to it, I hope. It feels like a great compliment when that happens.

The winner of the NN Art Award will be announced in the Kunsthal Rotterdam on Thursday 1 February at 20:00 CET. The work of the nominees will be on display there until 14 April 2024. At Art Rotterdam, Maaike Kramer's work will also be on display in the booth of Art Gallery O-68.

Written by Flor Linckens

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