The artist's photographs show sections of the scale models as realistic interiors, fully furnished and decorated. The spaces depicted could be actual rooms where people live. Meulendijks' short films show the models being carried through abandoned buildings or over desolate terrain, reflecting the contrast between inside and out, openness and seclusion, vulnerability and security.
The artist's first architectonic project was carried out in 2009, and was commissioned by SKOR, the Dutch Foundation for Art and Public Domain. Her work can be characterized as subdued, contemplative, and intimate.
"Klein en meeslepend ('small and compelling')," reads the nameplate on the studio occupied by Ingeborg Meulendijks. She simply clipped the text out of a Dutch newspaper, but it perfectly describes the miniature rooms she builds out of wood. Despite their small scale, these models carry a huge impact, as if each tiny detail adds to the emotional charge of the piece.
"If I sit quietly in a space, a dialogue develops with the room, as if the building itself becomes another individual," says the artist about her fascination for buildings. She also refers to the models she creates as "portraits". My first encounter with her work made me think of Andrej Tarkovsky's film, The Sacrifice. In it, the main character's house - his most precious possession - almost becomes a character in its own right. Yet he chooses to sacrifice the house in the hopes of a better world. A few weeks after meeting with Meulendijks, I received these words on Tarkovsky written by Willem Jan Otten, "It is an intriguing thought that our inner self is a house, with different rooms, and that some people have the gift of moving through the place like a guide, and of recording the journey on film".
Meulendijks likes the many layers of Tarkovsky's work, loaded with meaning, his attention to detail, and the slow pace with which he allows a story to unfold. Meulendijks, too, takes her time, sometimes working on a model for months on end. The inner self Otten writes about is her subject of choice. Her pieces are usually prompted by a detail: the light cast on a table, an impression left in a pillow. She then builds a room around this, sometimes an entire house. Each attribute is given meaning and no detail of the construction is out of place. The bases supporting the houses, the protective outer walls, but also the most minute aspects of the interior - everything adds to the emotional charge of the piece.
From an article by Rebecca Nelemans, freelance art historian and journalist
Since 1997, Ingeborg Meulendijks has been building her project "The secret house," a large collection of models of interiors made mostly of wood. Her bounded interior spaces represent a personal reality - spaces where memories, observations, dreams, and ideas come together. According to Meulendijks, her scale models stand at the crossroads of imagination and reality, inviting forays into both. The artist presents her work in two ways: She exhibits the models themselves and photographs of the interiors. Each discipline summons its own reality and experience. In the photographs, the spaces lose the tactile attraction of the models. The playful desire to wander around through the space is transformed by the lack of perspective into a puzzling aloofness. Fact and fiction seem to come together, but they also play off of one another.
From an article by Bart van den Boom, art historian
Ingeborg Meulendijks' scale models pare down interiors to their very essence. In an austere space, which often exudes the same serenity and quietude as a Saenredam church interior, our attention is drawn to the few elements worked out in great detail. This may be tiles, miniature woodcuts, or inlaid wooden parquet flooring - all often indistinguishable from their life-size counterparts. The spare surroundings invite the viewer to look closely, to take in what you see in all its detail and analyze it. What determines our experience of this space? What associations does it call up? The work compels you to ponder the meaning of a house, a home, but also the emotions tied to these concepts.
Your own interpretation and memory inevitably play a role. The photographs the artist presents with the little rooms confuse. They show portions of the scale models as realistic interiors, fully furnished and decorated. The spaces depicted could be actual rooms where people live. Because of how they so obviously steer our interpretation, the photographs seem completely different from their mysterious, empty, 3D likenesses. In addition to photographs, the scale models also feature in short films, in which the models are carried or pulled over rugged, desolate terrain. Images filmed from both inside the spaces and from the outside reflect the contrast between inside and out, openness and seclusion, vulnerability and security. The rugged natural surroundings heighten our perception of the care, shelter, and refinement associated with the scale models.
From an article by Saskia van de Wiel, art historian