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A new wallpaper series for Designwall, her own exhibition and accompanying book at Heden, it is already proving to be a successful year for Christie van der Haak. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 10-01-2013

Weaving, ceramics, painting and drawing are all within Christie van der Haak’s range of skills but it’s in pattern making she excels. A collaboration with Dutch wallpaper manufacturer Designwall has resulted in Grimm, a triptych of wallpaper designs inspired by the tales of the brothers Grimm.

Van der Haak started out as a painter and quickly progressed to ceramics, from 2003 she has created textiles. “The Audax Textielmuseum (in Tilburg) opened up a whole new world to me,” says the artist. “Standing at the weaving machine and being part of the process fascinated me, I had found a new way to make unique pieces on a computer-driven machine.”

Van der Haak has worked as an artist since 1980 in which she searches for a sense coherence or contradiction within complex forms. “I call them rivers. I never think about it, it just flows from within.” Her paintings are ever-repeating patterns featuring bold colours and  organic shapes, somewhat reminiscent of early 20th century Art Nouveau designs. 

Of her own work she says: “Many people like what I do but whether they actually buy it is another thing. They need to be brave and not taken aback by a strong presence. Lovers of white rooms won’t easily adapt to my work.”

With a current focus on textile design, we asked her how she sees her transition from artist to designer. “There is a lot to be said about the divide between art and design, although I think the borders are all but blurred. I prefer to talk about intensity, something I strive to give each of my works. For me attention to detail is important. Sometimes is necessary to create smaller, museum pieces, it’s what attracts people to my work.”

Weaving happens in a small factory in Germany. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and the ride  there goes through dark forests where everything is at it used to be. This is where the Grimm fairytales originated,” the inspiration for Van der Haak’s collaboration with Designwall

Featuring three designs, the collection is more playful and surprising than most wallpapers on the market. It was the late Ed Annink who prompted the artist to design for the company, “he loved the complexity of my work”. ‘Palace’ for instance combines two wallpapers to create what can only be described as a feast for the eyes featuring columns in bold colours. 

“I had wanted to create wallpaper for a time and this was a great opportunity. The company has a different approach to most others and many of the established wallpapers now hang in special places (take Ed Annink’s ‘Witjes’ which feature in the Exchange Hotel or Richard Hutten’s ‘Layers’ at the London Design Museum), I hope the same happens with ‘Grimm’.”

Van der Haak sees Annink as a great stimulator and inspiration stating: “his enthusiasm opened doors.” Encouraging her to display work and helping to get it there, when Annink was asked to design a chair for the Venduehuis charity chair auction, he immediately though of her. Van der Haak upholstered the chair, Annink made a privacy screen and the entire thing became a project of reflection. “A place to sit and think about him and what he meant as a designer and person. Unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to see the finished project but I’m grateful to have known him.”

From 18 January Christie van der Haak will have her own exhibition at Heden in The Hague, part of the oeuvre prize she won last year. Especially for this show, the artist created 30 black-and-white prints which resulted in a series of new patterns and even a large jacquard-woven installation. A red-and-blue tablecloth made from Egyptian cotton will also be on show at Heden. The accompanying book by Studio Renate Boere features colour drawings and words by Van der Haak’s daughter Eline, and shows her work method through mirroring images. 

‘Everything has a Soul’ will be on show at Heden from 19 January until 9 March 2013. 

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