Photo: Aukusti Heinonen.

Gerbrand Burger Studio Furniture


The title Studio Furniture refers to the tables, chairs, and shelves in the artist studio, but also to handmade, one-of-a-kind design furniture. In a broader sense, it might refer to anything that furnishes the artist studio, which is a space where the state of objects is often unclear; a piece of wood in the studio can be a piece of raw material, an artwork, a work in progress, a discarded cutoff, a stool to sit on, or even firewood.

With his exhibition, Gerbrand Burger questions this uncertain state of the material in the artist studio, where he’s often moving and transforming material from one state to another. The exhibition displays the artist’s attitude towards nature as a resource of materials, taking the life of the wood into account before and after the exhibition. Furthermore, there is not one concept or method to Burger’s work, there’s many. In recent years, his working process has often started from the materials he wants to use, which is mostly wood and sometimes ceramics. He’s chosen to work with wood because of its fundamental role in civilization, its wonderful workability by hand and because it is natural and regrowable.

The pace of growing trees makes one pause and put many contemporary human frills in perspective. Most works in the exhibition are made from birch wood that Burger harvested at the family summerhouse on Kråkö in Porvoo, about two years ago. It was cut at a small local sawmill and the boards were dried under the roof of the summer studio that the artist built there recently. This process of preparing the wood has become a meaningful part of making his work; it provides the necessary rootedness for his work and life as an antidote to the insecurities and speed of contemporary city life.

One of the consequences of using the birch tree from Kråkö was for example that he had to bring all the boards to a workshop to have them planed in early March. This implied one full day of shoveling snow at the summerhouse, then walking all the wood, piece by piece, up to the car, sliding off an icy hill when trying to drive away, etc. It took 10.000 steps only to load and unload the trailer. And the result was: still just a stack of boards.

In the works the traces of fungi, insects and birds are visible; traces that would normally be cut away. The Bauhaus bookcase, designed by Josef Albers for Walter Gropius, that appears in some of the small-scale sculptures, has started to rot at its corners; partly digested by the Birch Polypore fungus (Fomitopsis betulina). It deliberately shows that our modernist concept of human civilization as separate from nature, and the ideal to overcome or conquer nature even, is untenable.

Feeling rooted also means having a humble attitude towards the natural world that we are part of. Two years ago, Burger moved into a new studio in Amsterdam – also one that he had built himself. Even though it is his largest studio so far, with 150 m2 plus storage space, it was immediately full when he moved all materials and previous works from the old studio. He realized it would not make sense to keep on producing work in the same manner and store it, so he decided to start making sculptures out of wood. He would ‘borrow’ the wood from the forest, make his work with it and show it to some people, and afterwards he would return the wood to the forest.

After this exhibition, the works will be put back between the trees on Kråkö, to slowly become part of the forest floor again.

The exhibition is supported by the Svenska Kulturfonden, Mondriaan Fonds, Gerbrandy Cultuurfonds, and Amarte.

The artist wishes to thank TunnePuu for their generous sponsorship.

Gerbrand Burger is based in Amsterdam. Burger grew up in Driebergen and studied Political Science and Language and Culture of Latin America at Leiden University, and fine arts at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, School of Visual Arts, New York and Cooper Union, New York. From 2006–2008 he was a resident at artist institute De Ateliers in Amsterdam. His solo exhibitions include e.g.: From a River to the Room, Bellyditcham Project Space, Amsterdam (2021); Exhibition Continues Upstairs, Pitcairn Museum of Contemporary Art, Groningen (2020); Unhide All, Kunstvereniging Diepenheim, Diepenheim (2019); Objects From the Outside, C&H Gallery, Amsterdam (2016). Group exhibitions include eg.: Off Grid, Dapiran Project Space, Amsterdam (2020); Gestalt, Kasteel Nederhorst, Nederhorst den Berg (2019); Big Art, Amsterdam (2018); Coup de Foudre, Maison van Doesburg, Paris (2017); Adaptation, Transition Gallery, London (2016). Burger worked as scenographer for various theatre productions, for Holland festival and theatres in the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States. Burger’s short films have been shown at numerous festivals worldwide.

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Video by Pia Männikkö

Models for Deep Storage -installation, 2021–2022. Photo: Aukusti Heinonen
Photo: Aukusti Heinonen
Lähikuva Gerbrand Burgerin teoksesta, jonka materiaali on puu.
Studio Furniture, Gerbrand Burger.
Photo: Gerbrand Burger.

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