Words by Asia Lanzi

Mees Merlin, an Amsterdam native, has explored various creative paths, starting as a photographer and co-owner of Archi3f. His core passion lies in art, and at the age of 22, he unveiled four years of artistic journey in ‘The Mees Merlin Exhibition’ at Pre-Reserved. This exhibition delved into life's complexities, contemplating impermanence and unpredictability through the lens of Memento Mori. It featured 25 unique artworks, spanning chemically manipulated materials and paintings, with an opening night held on August 25, 2023, at Pre-Reserved Studio C in Amsterdam-North.

Can you tell us about your journey from photography to art and what led you to focus primarily on your passion for art?

I’ve been into photography since I was a child, but over time, photography started to lose its appeal to me. I found that the beauty was right in front of me, and all I had to do was click the shutter. With physical art, it’s different altogether. You have a whole range of choices at your fingertips—materials, textures, colors, patterns—and you get to create the roadmap from your mind to your hands to the canvas. That’s why, for this exhibition, I decided to shift my focus more towards creating physical art objects.

Your art is described as capturing the essence of life’s impermanence and unpredictability. How do you approach conveying these profound concepts through your creative process?

I enjoy working with natural elements, such as fungus and fire. The flame goes where it pleases until it eventually burns out. This adds an unpredictable layer to creating an artwork that is beyond my control – a uniqueness to the patterns that I couldn’t replicate.

Could you share some insights into your sources of inspiration that fuel your creative process? How do these influences shape your artistic direction?

As my primary source of inspiration, I watch a lot of films and aim to see at least one new film every day. Therefore, I am inclined towards horizontal imagery, and I strive to capture the same atmosphere in the composition and intensity of my works. I also enjoy studying materials under a microscope first. This provides me with insights into the colors that can be revealed, much like the peacock feather, which features a perfect eye on each end, yet different every time.

Can you walk us through your typical approach to creating art? From the initial spark of an idea to the final realization, what steps and techniques are integral to your creative journey?

Most of the time, my art creation starts with coming across a material. In the case of my most recent work, I stumbled upon some 70’s Dutch sex magazines in the city, and that’s where it all begins. All the frames are the same. Once I gather all the materials, I nail them together and choose a medium to paint with. The painting process sort of flows naturally until I sense that the work is complete. Then, I wait until the next idea finds me.

“The Mees Merlin Exhibition” seems to delve into the complexities of life and existence. Could you share some insights into the themes and emotions you explore through your art in this comprehensive showcase?

When creating artwork, I don’t dwell on the meaning or seek to provide a solution. Instead, I aim to transform something simple and familiar into something that ignites inspiration, and my personal opinion is inconsequential. It’s the viewer’s contribution to the art to find their stories within the burned canvas.

Your exhibition resonates with the theme of “Memento Mori.” Could you elaborate on how this concept is woven into your artistic expression? How does it manifest in your artworks and connect with your broader artistic narrative?

All the works were created to coexist with time. They will continue to change over the years; the rust will keep oxidizing, and the colors will fade. They haven’t been polished to be preserved. Every day, a part of the old work is lost, reborn in a new guise. All the materials and animal skins I use were once alive. By painting death, I strive to keep it alive.

The exhibition features a diverse collection of artworks, from chemically manipulated materials to paintings and still-motion imagery. Can you elaborate on your unique creative process and the various mediums you employ in your art?

I have a desire to explore and experiment with different art forms. I strive to evoke a similar emotional resonance across these various mediums. My goal is to seek out new compositions and narratives within my images. In my works, I aim to manipulate colors and depth to create something new. You can recognize the layers and appreciate the texture, but through these forms, you have the opportunity to examine something ordinary in a new light.

What do you aspire for viewers to gain from your exhibition? What underlying message or emotion do you intend to convey through your artwork?

With each work, I aim to evoke the feeling of watching a short film where the viewer creates the script, whether it’s just a single word or an entire story. My hope is for people to connect with one of the works in a way that goes beyond my original intention in creating them. Or they can simply appreciate the visual aspect without overthinking it.

From a more personal perspective, I’m delighted to finally showcase all my previous art together in ‘The Mees Merlin Exhibition.’ Now, I can begin anew.