Frederik’s work space is on the first floor. Each of the eight tables represents a project, process or show and is synchronized with the corresponding project in the workplace downstairs.
Frederik Molenschot’s studio is reminiscent of a pre-war fun fair. This is where he and his team work on dozens of projects at the same time; from here, his light sculptures fan out all over the world.
In 2011, Frederik Molenschot moved his studio from an old, 3,000-m2 warehouse in Amsterdam to a 700-m2monumental but dilapidated boiler house on the Hembrug grounds in Zaandam. This not only meant renovating the two-storey building, but also a lot of turning the light sculptures, which are supported by wood structures, this way and that to get them inside. Like in Lars von Trier’s film Dogville, all of the projects have been placed inside white lines on the floor. This way – without walls – it’s easier for him to work on all of his projects simultaneously.
Molenschot likes to work – a lot, and hard. Whether he is a baker or a guy with his own barbecue business, like before, or the artist and designer he is today. He wants to make, create and perfect – all in his own unique way.
During his studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Man & Public Space department, he learned to observe in an abstract, research-oriented manner. He still looks at the landscape that way, at the boundaries of nature and city, at the tension between them and at structures that overlap. He translates this perspective into light compositions. Citylights, inspired by the labyrinth of light you see when you fly over a city by night, is the characteristic work with which Molenschot instantly established his reputation. The sculptures look like complex infrastructures with cars reminiscent of tilted little helmets, mushrooms, headlights or speakers.
He worked as a researcher before he graduated in 2005. With researchers from around the world, he studied mobile communication for Siemens’ Mobile Design Lab. ‘It was a great way to work for a major company and work freely at the same time,’ he says of that period in which he travelled a lot, from Munich to Shanghai. It was in the latter that he found the basis for his light sculptures. ‘Shanghai has seven highways that run one above the other. It’s a network with a very intense infrastructure and that is what I tried to translate to the human scale.’ This resulted in chandelier Anamorphosis. After presenting it in Milan in 2011, Frederik Molenschot‘s career went full speed ahead. The prestigious Carpenters Workshop Gallery added his work to its collection and the first edition of Anamorphosis sold out in no time at Art Basel.
The mushroom-like light sources of the chandelier provide a warm glow by the reflection of the polished bronze on the inside. Molenschot nearly always uses bronze, despite the fact that he thinks it’s a quite kitschy material. ‘It’s super easy to cast and super easy to achieve a smooth finish,’ he explains. A comparison with his first job as a baker rushes to mind: he’s exchanged flour for bronze, a material that liquefies and solidifies like a boiling egg.
Cosmos, a bronze light sculpture with a silvery patina. This is an overview of the workshop. The space of each project is marked on the floor in white paint. This makes it easier for Frederik to work on ten to twenty projects simultaneously, spending twenty minutes on each project per day.
The designer holds on to his most successful failures: an exploded aluminium cast for the Gingerblimp. Frederik is showing a model (1:100) of Concertgebouwplein 20 Amsterdam – an idea for a work in the public space – made of black-patinaed and polished bronze.
The different designs, for example the Barbapapa-like light object Cosmos, call forth associations with futuristic spacecraft as well as huge insects, flocks of birds, and giant nuts or stones. They are rough and touching yet sophisticated, graceful and poetic, industrial and traditional. They comprise 3D printed or milled parts as well as traces of fingertips, of directing and creating hands.
The separate parts are cast, ground, sanded, polished and assembled in the studio. Each metre produced in the studio represents a kilometre elsewhere. All parts are entered into coded production schedules. ‘Each light object is turned into a kind of bronze flat pack of linkable space stations that comprise some 500 cast elements,’ says Molenschot. ‘This allows me to continue to develop them.’ Each member of the Studio Molen team is kept abreast of all projects and works on a range of assignments that’s as wide as possible. Everyone knows how to design, build models, sculpt and manage a project
The piano Frederik inherited from his grandmother. It used to adorn the home of his grandparents in Germany and is said to be of pre-war provenance. Frederick thinks he‘s a lousy pianist, but he likes to strum chords. Royal Avenue, the project for BAL!, in the Soestdijk Palace with a two-dimensionally illustrated work by Frederik. He often creates similar pieces as an intermediate stage rather than an end product.
Meanwhile, they manufacture light objects that weigh 100 kg as well as ones that weigh 800 kg and are the size of a modest student room – and mainly arouse the interest of art collectors. In large interior projects such as Huys, a former bank building in Manhattan that the Kroonenberg Groep converted into luxury penthouses and lofts, he often works with Piet Boon (Piet Oudolf was involved as well). Molenschot provided all the art, the monumental chandeliers and the brass room numbers. He’s currently working on a light object for the arrival hall of Tampa Bay International Airport in Florida. From the 800 entrants, he is the only Dutch artist involved in the project. Studio Molen is making a gigantic spacecraft to illuminate the building.
This feature was published in WOTH issue No 5 - 2017