'Something with blocks'. That was, in short, the very first briefing of this project I received during a phone call. It also was the fourth art project commisioned by KPN Online Sales Director Peter Sonke.
The KPN Online Sales Team Day 2016 would took place at Thursday, May 26. On that day, Peter wanted to thank all team members and give them something unique. 'Something with blocks’. 'Or circles’.
At least the give-away needed to have a Mr.Upside touch. It also needed to have something to do with mobile phones, Internet and phone. Because selling those products through the KPN webshop is the responsibility of the 40+ team members of the KPN Online Sales department.
A few hours after I received the call from Peter, Janette and I started brainstorming. We came to the conclusion that, given the project boundaries, a holder for your cell phone would be a appropriate gift. Although a phone holder itself is not very special nor creative, the blocks can be stacked. And ‘building blocks’ are an excellent metaphor for ‘team’, ‘cooperation’ and 'building’. Also, the blocks together can form a small wall which can be painted on one side. This makes the wall not only a work of art, each block itself holds a unique miniature painting.
Impermanence as conceptual element
After handing out the blocks they would never be together to form the larger painting. That brought impermanence as an unexpected but welcome extra conceptual element. In addition, the blocks would be an artwork and utensil at the same time. And bare wood gives it a durable feel. One of the ideas during the brainstorm session was adding a phone charger. Eventually we dismissed this, as team members will use a wide variety of phone brand and models.
Working wood is not part of my skill set so we turned to carpenter Marc Kupers. Outsourcing the technical part of the artwork was a logical choice. Choosing Marc Kupers followed a friendly and successful cooperation with Marc that goes back years. He was happy to accept the challenge to cut to size, milling the slot and sand the blocks, with the exact dimensions and finish. The latter was extremely important. It ensured that the blocks could fit together. A few millimeters difference would be clearly visible and unwanted.
High density image
After completing the technical part, I was able to start the artistic part. The 50 small blocks together make up a larger painting but each separate block would also have to be an interesting object by itself. Therefor an image with high density and detail was needed. The spacing and stroke width of Mr. Upside Bold Lines can easily be adjusted to ensure this high density result.
Figurative vs. abstract
The Mr. Upside Bold Lines are mostly abstract. But if the painting would contain at least some recognizable figurative elements, this was preferred. Recognizable elements in the artwork reduce the distance between the art and the viewer. Which makes the art easier to digest.
Setting the color scheme was much more difficult than deciding on the form. The colors had to blend in with any decor, business and private. And aligning the color palette with the corporate identity colors of KPN was far too obvious. One part of the solution was using design software. This provided the possible testing of many different color combinations within a very short time.
This was nice, as I needed to keep in mind that the color choice had tremendous impact on the planning and schedule. For a white line on a dark background to really get crispy white, it takes a lot of layers of paint and thus time. Some parts consist of up to 6 layers of paint. Moreover, there was no time for days of experimenting with real paint layers. To help the lines tell a clear story, I chose to use a contrasting blue line. This line adds something to the message of the painting and makes it a more attractive image.
Because of other responsibilities and a lot of Dutch public holidays, the deadline was approaching fast. Working evenings and nights got inevitable. And, for some unknown reason the lights in my studio didn’t work. But the lights in the hall of the building did. So, at one point I found myself in the middle of the night, painting the blocks on the floor of the corridor of the building. The dimmed light, empty building and the gloomy music through the speakers made it al very unreal.
Ultimately, all the work resulted in a unique art object. I'd like to express my gratitude towards Peter Sonke as he commissioned this artwork. I also would like to thank Marc Kupers for his dedication and precision in the manufacturing of the wooden blocks.
Other commissioned artworks
Like to know the in other works commissioned by KPN? Check the following blogposts: