Statement

Mixed media artist Marcel van den Berg has a multidisciplinary practice, which is influenced by the sociocultural realities and happenings, past and present, of his native Netherlands and its diaspora. Acutely attuned to the social realities of minority populations, both locally and globally, these sentiments are viscerally and exquisitely translated into his works.

His artistic production is an act of ‘thinking in material’ – an intuitive, associative, very physical and at times aggressive way of working. Exuding raw energy reminiscent of old-school abstract expressionism, graffiti and street culture, his work is also influenced by twentieth-century black music from the United States as well as Caribbean music. He appropriates lyrics taken from hip hop, funk, jazz, techno, or reggae; musical genres with messages about injustice, social issues, racism but also voicing pride.

Drawing inspiration from his immediate surroundings, his local community in Amsterdam, the Bijlmer; a colourful neighbourhood where people of Caribbean and African-descent have resided for decades – and which now also has a big artist community – Van den Berg allows the area’s strong energy and special vibe to seep into his work. Incorporating discarded materials found on the streets, he furthermore plays with the notion of a ‘disposable society’, starkly contrasting it to the clean, white, rational and, so-called, intellectual art world. Using a strict colour scheme – not unusual in Dutch painterly history, think of Mondrian and De Stijl – the artist deploys colours rooted in Rastafarianism and Pan-Africanism. All of which forms a rich medley that he translates into his own visual language.

Yet, food is another important ingredient for Marcel van den Berg. Previously working as a part-time chef to make ends meet, he soon developed the urge to integrate cooking into his practice. The strong informal and social aspect that sharing food entails provides a smooth digestion of the art.