Fransje Killaars: Color at the Center is sponsored by VADSCO and UT’s Ready for the World and is on display in the Ewing Gallery through October 21.
Fransje Killaars (b. 1959, Maastricht, The Netherlands) is a remarkable colorist whose vigorously conceptual installations exist in a space that merges painting, architecture, fashion and interior design. Killaars creates installations with fabrics she designs, periodically incorporating the human figure in the form of mannequins and other elements in order to create impressive room-filling sculptures and wall hangings with characteristic horizontal layers of fabric inspired by the principle of swatch books. In addition to her autonomous installations, Killaars has made a name for herself with commissions for the public domain, including the Herenkamer at the Catshuis, the lobby of the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the foyer of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In addition, Killaars recently designed a piece for the North Delegates’ Lounge of the UN Headquarters in New York.
Killaars’ work is imbued with craft and its handmade and functional associations, which is another reason why her work resonates with fiber artists in Maine and other rural communities with a strong tradition in woven textiles. Her installations may combine fabrics from Japan, blankets designed by the artist and hand-woven in India, and draped figures reminiscent of contemporary and historic representations of women. At the same time, Killaars has been placed in the context of deskilling, the continued removal of the artist’s hand from the creation of art. Her most common ‘formats’ are carpets and bedspreads, or gridded pieces of fabric, which she has made in a women’s cooperative in India.
Trained at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, Killaars began her career as a painter. Influenced by the works of Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, and Henri Matisse, Killaars is a Dutch artist with a recognizable, yet singular Dutch aesthetic. In 1984, the year she left art school, she became a studio assistant for the internationally recognized painter and sculptor, Sol Lewitt—another artist who left a lasting impression on Killaars. In 1990, just as Killaars was establishing a strong career as a painter in the Netherlands, she traveled to India on the advice of a friend, the first of a number of trips there that influenced her practice in profound ways. According to the artist: “Everything in this chaotic world [India] is colourful—the street is one huge overwhelming palette…through India I discovered the power of colour as a part of everyday life. I felt that it could be different, that you could live in those colours…”