Marcel van den Berg has a multidisciplinary practice, which is influenced by sociocultural realities and happenings, past and present.
Acutely attuned to the social realities of minority populations, both locally and globally, these sentiments are viscerally and exquisitely translated into his works.
His roots can be found both in the Netherlands and Caribbean. Through his work he organically unites these two cultures and creates a language based on equality and curiosity.
Van den Berg’s 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.
His playful use of painterly gestures in his work is influenced by works of Franz Kline, Hans Hartung, Willem de Kooning, A.R Penck and also Karel Appel in his NY Jazz period (’57-’61). His methods of painting have a performative character reminiscent of the Gutai Group.
The direct approach towards the canvas is like tagging and his speed of working is deeply rooted in graffiti, where he learned to be creative while working under time pressure.
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, respectively red, yellow/gold, green and red, black, green. 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.
Van den Berg had his training at a restaurant based on the principles of California Cuisine. This means the use of the highest-quality food available and ingredients that are locally, organically and sustainably grown. All fresh and in season.
This resulted in several pop up restaurants, where he alongside a gang of affiliated artists, chefs and makers served dinners for groups up to 100 people.
For van den Berg all these practices operate on the same level of importance. The choice to use cinnamon, red paint or a beat by Dre.