In memoriam | Lizan Freijsen (March 19, 1960 – February 15, 2024)

Last week we received the sad news that Lizan Freijsen died suddenly after a bicycle accident. She was a visual artist who found beauty in something most of us don't see: fungi. She saw numerous aesthetic variants in those whimsical shapes with their multitude of textures and colors. "I want to draw attention to the unwanted, to transform the everyday into something of value," she said a few years ago, when she showed her work in the stairwell of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Freijsen was born in Zwijndrecht on March 19, 1960. From 1978 to 1984 she attended the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, and then studied for a few more years at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Her interest in mold started in 2002, when she started photographing leak spots in the homes of local residents. She started blowing up the photos and incorporating them into new expressions such as wallpaper. In 2006, for example, she made a plan with CBK Rotterdam to install 'leaks to order' for customers of the art library. She would never let go of the theme.

Since 2000, she has been a teacher at the Willem de Kooning Academy, where she returned as a student in 2014 for a master's degree in Design Research. Because as capricious and unpredictable as her theme behaves, she worked so systematically. On the eve of her master's research, she had already created a database of mold and moisture stains, which she had exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, among others. She started working with the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in Utrecht, an international study center for fungal research. In doing so, she showed what important alliances visual arts and science can make with each other. In 2017 she completed her master's degree and published the book 'The Living Surface' based on her stain archive. She was supported by the R&D scheme for a follow-up to this, namely the colors of decay.

Her work has been shown in group exhibitions in the Netherlands, such as at 38CC, and France. At home in Rotterdam she exhibited at NL=US, the Hilton Art Lab and the WTC Art Gallery, and last year the film that Marieke van der Lippe had made about her was shown in Het Archief. Her work has also been shown at design fairs in London, Milan and New York. It showed that she had now started to translate her stains into carpets, something she did in collaboration with the Textile Museum in Tilburg. There she had several designs tufted: a now forgotten traditional technique, which she rediscovered in 2009 and which she also worked with in her studio at Bosland Studios.

Tufting was more durable than photo wallpaper and it provided relief options for her wool rugs, sculptural and warm at the same time. She used this for monumental installations, on floors and walls and in corners, where it entered into a relationship with the architecture. The carefulness of the craft returned in the way she composed her work in exhibitions and commissioned situations, where she worked in situ. Now that textiles have experienced a comeback in the art world in recent years, the demand for her work has increased, she told de Volkskrant in 2021.

Meanwhile, her work retained a certain tension, because disgust is people's automatic response to mold – life must be clean and houses hygienic. Precisely because of that reaction, which subsequently turned into a positive appreciation, her work formed a game with the reception. And when translated into clothes, her work was also a call for caress and touch, especially after the corona period. "This work is an ode to the physical world, an invitation to feel and share kindness," she says on her website. ''Touch is our first sense. Through touch we create art, we claim ownership of who and what we love. We leave traces and find our place in the world; touch is how we connect.”

Fungi change and disappear again, but not in Freijsen's work. In it she captured the ephemerality and temporality of her theme in an art for eternity.

Photo: Nicole Uniquole

Publication date: 19 / 02 / 2024