Arno Coenen has built a reputation for monumental works of art in public space, in which he mixes old crafts, such as glass mosaic, with contemporary computer graphics. He is greatly appreciated because his artworks are often created with the help of residents and other people directly involved.
He gained international fame with his contribution to De Markthal in Rotterdam from MVRDV Architects, the large-scale, colorful ceiling that ended up on the covers of both the Architecture in the Netherlands Yearbook and the Dutch Design Yearbook. He made an important contribution to the Beurspassage in Amsterdam, finishing in the top 3 of the Annual Review of NRC Handelsblad architecture. His tile panel Oud-West, Thuis Best was included in the Rijksmuseum collection and in the publication The History of the Netherlands in 100 Objects. His computer-generated video animations have been included in important collections of media art, including those of Center Pompidou in Paris.
Arno Coenen became an artist at a time when computer, VJ and video art were rampant, but with the limited technology of those days it was much more difficult to implement ideas than now. Monitors and computers were often inadequate and equipment often failed spontaneously. In response, Arno consciously used traditional art techniques, such as glass mosaic, ceramics and stained glass, to realize images from the computer.
The public works are physical manifestations of images from other media: computer animations, videos, photos, posters and news media, for example. In this process of fleeting electronic images to solid materials such as stone and glass, Coenen develops a personal visual language, with unique compositions of recognizable elements. Collaboration is essential for Coenen in realizing his art, both with art professionals and material experts and people from the neighborhood, who build a direct relationship with the work.
The encounter between digital images and traditional techniques creates a tension that is characteristic of Arno Coenen’s oeuvre. In the Markthal project, for example, he makes the link between old Dutch still lifes and Pixar’s animated films, by combining trompe l’oeil with refined 3D and light effects. He also wants to connect extremes in terms of content. The tile panel Oud-West, Thuis Best, which has been on permanent display since 2011 in the Civic Gallery of the Amsterdam Museum, juxtaposes Old Dutch and Arabic symbols, for example.
Like in much contemporary art, his theme focuses on the slowness with which Western society, and the Netherlands in particular, processes developments such as post-colonialism and globalization. Coenen is not only fascinated by the rapid emergence of cultures from beyond national borders; subcultures, youth culture and pop culture are also prominent in his work. He prefers explosive phenomena such as hooliganism, heavy metal and the martial arts culture.
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