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Muilwijk, Janpeter - VM - Muilwijk & W. Peene

Janpeter Muilwijk: Interwoven

 Being Human
by Janpeter Muilwijk and Willemijn Peene
This is about our good origin. At the bottom of this scene the tree of life is in bloom near a well. Adam, formed from dust, admires his fair wife. They are naked and are not ashamed. Man and woman: partners. They find each other and are bodily entwined, incorporated. Their innocence, their non-erotic postures, their deep ‘joinedness’ and naiveté are moving. This is paradise, everything as it should be.
Janpeter Muilwijk made this tapestry for the Nieuwe Kerk in Middelburg, The Netherlands. It is 11 x 3 meters with seven scenes that wind upwards between two rivers, depicting a passage bordered by water.
Muilwijk designed the tapestry in a studio in Italy, where he looked for inspiration to the ecclesiastical art of the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Afterwards the drawings were scanned and sent to a computer operated Dornier loom to be woven. Then in the following months 25 people from Middelburg filled in details by embroidering by hand.
As a recurring theme across the tapestry there are birds and fishes, stones and flowers, that strengthen and join the content of the tableaus.
Where are they going? A black but caring raven accompanies them. The path is no paradise, yet there is a basket with fruit from paradise – the goodness of God for the people of God. The accent is not on sin, guilt and punishment, but on their own responsibility. Humans after God’s image follow their own way, without huge sorrow and misery and with knowledge of their good origin.
Next we see the miracle of birth, Christmas and the amazement of new life. The mother sits, not on a throne but simply and earthily, focusing on her husband. The father is gentle. A goldfinch approaches. Three children, worshippers, admirers, angels, kings, shepherds, we … sit next to the child and its parents, our feet are almost in paradise. A child has been born!
Here is the conflict we will come up against in life, fighting with one hand and blessing with the other. Not only the ones closest to you (Eve, Mary… fill in whoever that might be for you), but also other adversaries from afar and near.
This scene deals with inescapable death, powerlessness and yet comfort. A young man balancing on his toes points to the Resurrected One and says: until here and no further will death come. The mourners at the side comfort each other with one arm, while also being weighed down under their own sorrow. They look away holding their hands before their faces and just barely do not touch the dead one.
Next we see a shepherd, full of care focusing beyond himself. With his legs he forms a portal to the upper scene of the tapestry. The good shepherd connects with the viewer, oriented outwards, oriented towards care. With the nightingale at his feet.
Finally we come to pure wine, accessibility and openness. A half kneeling and blessing Christ joins himself by way of a grapevine to the people around him. It is a harvest feast with bread and grapes, spontaneous, genuine and inspiring. With a breath of relief they are all one in their joyous celebration.
The artist sums up his work: ‘In its totality it is a happy scene. That is something I do not see very often, especially not in religious art. All of this, of course, is a very serious matter. Yet that strange and naïve lack of inhibition of the figures, those rows of people, I believe in them.’
The text of this meditation is taken from the booklet Verweven. Wandtapijt voor de Nieuwe Kerk, Citypastoraat Nieuwe Kerk and Janpeter Muilwijk, 2012, with texts by Janpeter Muilwijk, Willemijn Peene and Gert Jan Smit. To order, see
Janpeter Muilwijk: Interwoven, 2011, 11.14 x 3.12 m, Nieuwe Kerk, Middelburg, The Netherlands. The artist’s drawings were scanned and sent to a computer operated Dornier loom. The details were embroidered by hand.
Janpeter Muilwijk (Fontainebleau, 1960) lives and works in Middelburg, the Netherlands. He studied drawing and painting at the Christian School of the Arts in Kampen and Architectural Design at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht. Most of his scenes are directly adapted from the Bible. His drawings are made with pencil, although in some works he adds a little color with gouache. Though delicate, they have well-defined outlines. His figures often seem to be carved from stone.
Willemijn Peene (1986) grew up in Borssele, The Netherlands. She works as Educational Advisor at the ThiemeMeulenhoff Publishing House. She studied Media and Information Management at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and followed a year of theology at the University of Tilburg.
ArtWay Visual Meditation October 21, 2012