Carlijn Mens Dutch, b. 1972


what is the reality of a shadow? it is there and yet it is not. shadow has no substance. it needs substance and light, and then it is there. the shadow is the result of a process in which we play a part. (from a piece by herman de vries about the work of Carlijn Mens, 2011)


Over a period of more than ten years Carlijn Mens (*1972) has made the shadow the most important subject in her oeuvre. The shadow interests Carlijn even more than the 'original' and certainly when the light source is the sun, the shadow will move along with the sun and this movement is something the artist makes stunningly visible on the paper. She has to work fast in order to set down in charcoal the shadows of tree or plant; to fix, as it were, the motion.


The woods and dunes at Schoorl have been 'portrayed' by her in this way. The devastating forest fires a few years ago have left their mark - and shadows. Carlijn has recorded them in her series 'Preserved Places'. A particularly dramatic study by Carlijn was 'Faith, Fear, Face', in response to the tragic fate of 58 Chinese refugees in a freight container in Dover, a shocking event that dominated all the news media in 2000. In 2011-12 she filled the walls in the darkened basement of the GEM in The Hague with meters-long shadow drawings of stacked crates and human forms in a container.


In early 2018 Carlijn is invited to live and work in the Van Gogh house in Zundert for a few weeks. Here Carlijn continued her studies into her favourite subject: light-form-shadow. This time it is the structures of the old trees around the studio and on the small adjacent churchyard whose shadows she catches on her drawing paper.