Maarten van der Geest designs ‘tulip of Kazakhstan’


PIGEONS – The Gate of Pigeons, the artwork on the Paul Verhoef Roundabout, opposite Thuvine, resulted in a special assignment for Duiven artist Maarten van der Geest: He designed a sculpture for the botanical garden in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

By Alie Engelsman

In consultation with the customers, Maarten chose the design of a tulip. If all goes well with transportation and installation, the artwork will be unveiled on October 13. Maarten: “I think it is very special that something like this suddenly crosses my path. I have of course learned a lot from the process from design to placement of the artwork in a country so far away from here.”
His messages on social media ensured that Maarten van der Geest was contacted by the Dutch ambassador to Kazakhstan. The artist knows him from his student days in Utrecht. “We are not friends but he follows me on social media. He is a man with an affinity for art and he followed the whole process of Duiven Port. Last October he wrote to me asking if I could design a picture in connection with 30 years of independence from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has a good relationship with the Netherlands. There are about 700 Dutch companies active in this country. The idea arose to make a tulip. The tulip originates from Kazakhstan and not, as many believe, from Turkey. The flower is also the national symbol of the Netherlands, so a nice way to depict the connection between the two countries. The plan is for the statue to be placed in the botanical garden of the capital Astana (now called Nur Sultan). That garden is similar to what Central Park is for New York. So many people come to the park every day, a place to get out of the city for a while, for family outings or just to find relaxation.”
The sculpture is more than seven meters high, four meters wide and weighs around 1000 kilos. It sounds very big, but because the image consists of an open tube construction, it has a great transparency that makes it look subtle. The tulip takes on a solid color. Maarten: “I would have preferred to have painted it in different colors, because I really like colors. I wanted to incorporate the colors of the country’s flag. But a metallic or bronze color makes it a little calmer and not too overwhelming in such a botanical garden.” The design was carried out by the Slegers brothers, who have their workshop at ‘t Holland in Duiven. Guido and Michel, sons of artist Piet Slegers, were also involved in the construction of Duiven Port and have composed many artworks for various artists. Maarten: “You can also somewhat compare the project with the Duiven gate. Not only in relation to pipe design, but also in relation to the process around it, where I had to find out a lot myself. A difference with Poort van Duiven is that the financing was already arranged by the embassy. A large steel factory in Kazakhstan is sponsoring the entire project. I also thought it was very special that, as an artist from Duiven, I signed a contract with a mega steel company from the Far East, which is active all over the world. Besides, one also encounters unexpected things during such a process in these turbulent times, such as the sudden increase in the price of the steel and increased transport costs due to increased fuel costs.”

Connection symbol

In addition to the large statue, Maarten has also designed small bronze tulips. He made these himself. These tulips are already in Kazakhstan, at the embassy, ​​in a government building and at the steel factory. A copy is still in Holland, in the workshop of the Slegers brothers. The bronze model looks a little different due to the possibilities of the material. Somewhere, Maarten hopes that more of his tulips will be made and given a place in the offices of Dutch companies, as a connecting symbol. “But I will not interfere in the production of it. I am an artist and can only design and create. Perhaps we should no longer think in bronze, but in images from a 3D printer. And if you dream even further, small ‘tulips from Kazakhstan’ could be sold at a world exhibition.”
Maarten thinks it is important that people see him as a reliable artist who creates works of value and who does everything to ensure that the artwork actually comes. He prefers to work on commission for people who want their story told in the form of a picture. “I enjoy such a task, also the uncertainty and stomach-ache moments. The statue will soon be transported on a truck and I have no idea what it all entails. For that you also need trust in the people you work with, like the Slegers brothers. I have to give them a deadline that they must be able to meet.”

Close borders

During the interview, Maarten is called by the ambassador from Kazakhstan. The plan is for the artwork to be transported through Russia. However, Russia may close its borders to all Western freight traffic within the foreseeable future. This means that the tulip must be brought to Kazakhstan as soon as possible. The painting of the statue will therefore not take place in the workshop in Duiven, but on site in Astana. For Maarten, this means that he travels with the statue to Kazakhstan and takes care of the painting there himself. This is another unforeseen moment that makes the artist’s work interesting. “So I will unexpectedly spend a few weeks in Kazakhstan.
The advantage is that I can now also be present at the installation and unveiling of the artwork on October 13. And it can also be special.”

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