WHO KNEW THAT TAPE COULD BE THIS EXCITING TO LOOK AT, BUT THANKS TO DUTCH STREET ARTIST MAX ZORN, THIS MUNDANE HOUSEHOLD ITEM IS GETTING THE RECOGNITION IT DESERVES IN THE ART SCENE.
Amsterdam based artist Max Zorn’s medium of choice when it comes to creating art can baffle people but after seeing what this man can do with just a roll of packaging tape, it proves beauty can be created even the most banal of household items when you have artistic flair. Proving that adhesive tape has much more to offer than just the obvious, Zorn has created some of the most beautifully haunting and cinematic art pieces ever seen. Yes, the material of choice is quite intriguing, but just how it is being used to create something unique, eye catching and breathtakingly beautiful? Armed with just a brown packing tape and a scalpel, this man layers the translucent brown tape on acrylic glass while working on a lightbox and cutting it with a scalpel. With different layers of tape, he is able to create pictures to achieve various shades and hues. “I was jogging through the streets of Amsterdam one night where the streetlights are very old, and the scenery is very romantic, especially the soft lighting on the brick bridges and canals. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could create art for the streets at night. I came back to my room, looked around found some tape and just tried it out. The first artworks I hung on street lamps were pretty rough, and were just a tryout, but it looked amazing at night on the lanterns, and blended in by day, since the brown tape was the same color as the brown brick and lamp poles,” says Zorn. Saying it takes days or even weeks to complete one artwork, Zorn who studied sociology and psychology in college never thought that he would one day be a professional artist, let alone be using tape. From seeing his vast body of work, there is a sense of poetry and romanticism in the way his work is being portrayed. Zorn explains that it might be the sepia tones of the brown tape that gives off a certain nostalgia. He further explains, “My work is inspired by a lot of old films and shows I’ve watched. Before I was doing tape art, and I actually had time to read, I was inspired by the Lost Generation of writers, like Steinbeck and Hemingway. Traveling is also such an inspiration, so lately places like the South in the US, London and New York have been coming out in my works.” The various cityscapes around the world have been the backdrop for Zorn’s work, who is also an avid traveler and had his work displayed in cities such as Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Bangkok among others. “I love the big cities in the US, like New York and Chicago during the 1930s and the Roaring 20s and during the Prohibition. I also love the culture I’ve seen in the South, like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Paris is always a big inspiration for my Europe pieces, and London,” says Zorn who proclaims that New Orleans is fast becoming his favourite city as he is fascinated by the city’s passion, culture, music, food and the overall lifestyle. Images that Zorn creates with tape depict a moment in time, capturing a cinematic experience from a time period piece. His work has a certain street vibe and urban energy to it but all with an Old World classic look and an evocative twist. Without a sketch made before hand, Zorn creates his masterpieces naturally and starts with a blank slate. “I take bits and pieces of images and movies that I like, and then try to imagine the concept. I don’t make any sketches or photos, I try to really just see where the process takes me.” Zorn also reveals that he never really knows what his characters are going to be until the very end, so suspense and mystery are important parts of his work. Tape might seem like an easy material to work with, but contrary to Zorn’s experience with the handy household item, he says, “It takes a lot of patience and willpower to be really fine with finding small pieces of tape all over your clothes and stuff. Just kidding. It’s definitely taken a lot of practice with using a scalpel to curve and carve small pieces of tape; I definitely couldn’t do it three years ago when I started. But I’ve put in a lot of hours now and it just gets easier with time and dedication. I guess the main con is cutting my fingers with my scalpel so much that I barely have any fingerprints left.” Interpreting Zorn’s work is not mind boggling, and you just have to admire the sheer beauty of his pieces that help you forget how limiting a piece of tape is and that the possibilities are endless with even the most humble of materials. His work conveys a message and each viewer is free to see the art piece in whatever way they like. “I don’t like to convey any message actually, what I rather do is let the viewer choose what he or she wants to see. I like to let people be the storytellers, I find that idea very interesting.” It is no doubt that Zorn is a master in his chosen craft.
words by IEVAN DARWIN