May 052011

It looks like a backdrop but it isn’t.

It’s a painted sail, suspended 4 metres in front of a property on Westerstraat, Amsterdam.

Preparations were being made for Queen’s Day in the city for over a week beforehand. Public toilets were being positioned, bunting and balloons went up, the weather too was incredible. All the ingredients were there for an amazing citywide street party. The party began the night before (Queen’s night), I was due to paint in front of people, on a raised platform while one of my favourite bands of the moment, Supercity were playing.

This is me, keeping my head down in Amsterdam. On my first ever Queen’s Day.

Finding a made-to-measure cloth supplier in the city was proving to be a bit of a task, so I called a friend who I had met while my good mate Cept was over for a show. I asked our new friend (Ru) if she could help, she works in fashion and textiles and came up super-trumps! I arranged to meet Ru outside a church the following day, we walked to Geldensekade and I was introduced to Stef Zeilmakerij, the last sail maker in Amsterdam.

8 years ago, Stef was sitting in a café, reading the newspaper, which he said was unusual as he didn’t read much. In there was an article about a married couple who were closing their business of sail making after 80 years, since the trade was vanishing from the city, and nobody was stepping up to learn the skills. Needless to say, Stef tore out the article, quit his job, found the money and bought the business.

The first concept (pre-sketch) was the Queen (Juliana, not Beatrix) doing some hot-dogs over a bridge on a bike. It wasn’t going to be fun doing that so I caught myself tearing bits of paper up as I tried to remember how to make an infinite loop, or a Moebius strip. The idea was transforming into something mathematically absurd (again). I wanted an infinite line of royalty, floating above the Amsterdam evening. Crowns. Like the ants on Escher’s Moebius Strip works. I even made a triangular replica of his flattened Moebius to draw from (see photos) but it had to fit a rectangular space, so triangles were out.

The crowns reminded me of the water taps that are built into my mind. These are ones I recall from early childhood. So, the sail was dark, heavyweight, nailed up and ready to get ladder running. I ran a little late as the band were better than I thought and the crowd grew to an insane level. This was only the evening before the actual Queens Day.

Koninginnedag 2011.