MIRJAM DE NIJS
For more than 30 years, the Dutch sculptor Mirjam de Nijs has been transforming blocks of natural stone into curvaceous, often kinetic abstract sculptures using little more than her hands and a few rudimentary tools. A native of Amsterdam, de Nijs works from a studio she built on Zeeburgereiland, a small island on the outskirts of the city. The spare, open-air structure is surrounded by de Nijs’ sprawling collection of stones, providing her with an immediacy of inspiration and an ability to work in nature, away from the distractions of urban life.
Sculpting with soapstone, alabaster, marble, onyx, granite, travertine, and beyond, de Nijs’s pieces are often expressions of the stones themselves; responses to their shapes, textures, and patterns, which guide her creative process. In other cases, she develops an idea for a piece before seeking out a kindred stone with which to execute it. The works born from those approaches take on a great range of forms and sizes, from miniatures, to totems, to abstract busts, marked by their bold colors, angular shapes and curves, and balance of the raw and refined. Her pieces often combine smoothed stone with rough patches of rock and the marks of her toolwork—involving everything from spinning saws, to chisels, to delicate rasps—and morph endlessly as you examine them from different angles.
In natural stone, de Nijs sees a world of immeasurable forces, processes, and myths at play. She is fascinated by stone’s power and gentleness, its stillness and its gesture toward movement, all of which she explores in her sculptures. For de Nijs—who studied Dutch language and literature, philosophy, and art history before embarking on a career as an artist—sculpting is a language of its own. It exists beyond our everyday reality, and reaches further than our understanding. Meaning lies within every sculpture she makes, even if it can’t be captured in words. Inspired by nature, ancient history, human existence, and interpersonal interactions, de Nijs employs the language of abstract forms—and the singular medium of natural stone—to express the inexpressible with exactitude.