AJAX monument

AJAX soccer monument

Historical ground: the former location of AJAX. For many Amsterdam people this is where the art of  football was invented. This is where Johan Cruijff learned the game. As time go’s by and future comes, it is time for changes. On the former AJAX site people are allowed to live, be part of the future history. Imagine you could live on this holy ground… No future without a history: Integrated with the architecture of the new residential area the Artists Harald Vlugt (www.haraldvlugt.com) and David Mach (www.davidmach.com) developed a monumental concept to tribute the famous history of this site: 20 unique ceramic works, the special designed pavement of the ‘Esplanada’ and the placement of original style-objects of the former stadion.

Producing a monument

How to transform a concept into reality? What if art making becomes part of construction works? Creating art on a distance: the artist no longer can though the work by hand. Producing monumental graphic art is not the same like reproducing any original artwork. The technique is so complex, there are so many different processes, materials and people involved that the result is an work of art on itself. To integrate a historical trade like ceramics with contemporary image making needs a lot of understanding of both.

After analyzing the ceramic process, listening to a lot of ceramics experts, understanding the difficulties and finding the limitations of the process I started to develop a working method to create the contemporary ‘pop-art’ images created bij Harald Vlugt and David Mach. Both the artists work, besides their work as a sculptor, with collage technique. Using excisting graphics, both the artists have a collection of over a miljon images, they create a two demensional sculpture of graphic images. This analog works needed to be transfered into digital images.

Image making for ceramic use needs a two direction solution. One starts with the original artwork: use it as a concept for the final image. The other direction is backwards: start with the finished ceramic product and go back to where it started. Because of the natural materials, the chemical reactions and the heat treatment while firing there is soo much happening and changing in the process. It is not like meeting halfway, but pre-adjusting the digital information in that way that the final result still expresses the original artwork. In reallity: testing, testing, testing… Together with Royal Tichelaar Makkum, Netherland’s oldest company, we managed to create a beautiful and durable solution. (www.tichelaar.nl)

The big red and white ceramic tiles on the side of the appartment building is a story on itself. Only one company is able to make one-piece tiles of a square meter and 8 mm thick: Agrob Buchtall  in Germany (www.agrob-buchtall.de). This process is highly industrialised and between clay and finished product there is a fully automated production-road of 1,5 km. Impressive!  Making red is really difficult; Agrob needed to fire an endless am0unt of tiles. The tiles are treated with the unique Hydrotect technology. This way the tiles are auto-cleaning, like a lotusflower in the mud.

Printing for ever…

650 silkcreen frames have been printed, one year fulltime printing! An important part of colour-making with ceramic glazzes is the thickness of the layer of glaze. The glaze itself is transparant, to reach the full and bright colours that matches the ‘pop art’ like feeling we needed to print really a thick layer. After printing 10 layers of colour it became almost impossible to print the next colour on top of it: like printing on a 3D surface. But the printing skills of Hans Visser, owner of Studio Rood in Amsterdam, are close to magic.

The result

At the time we were doing the last bits and giving intervieuws to the press I met Jaap. This really big man was working on the infrastructure on the site and was talking with his college about the decorated tiles on the coloms. I joint the coneversation and Jaap told me about his relation with AJAX. Cleaning chairs in the stadion for a free ticket as a little boy, a lifetime commitment to the F-side (the real diehards) and promised his love to his wife on the centre of the original playingground. While telling me this, his eyes became blurry; “Thanks man, this piece of art will keep my holy ground here for ever”. I am happy.

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