Niels Shoe Meulman, "Unidenticals and Reverse Paintings" Solo Show at Galerie Droste Wuppertal

Thanks to social media, calligraphy has been getting quite the attention lately. People used to write beautifully. It was quotidian then, now it is artisanal. This is good. Because now, people are beginning to appreciate, even influenced by, the beauty of hand-written alphabets.

Niels “Shoe” Meulman is a master of calligraphy and a graffiti artist. He has been hitting the streets since the 80’s — the time when graffiti is beginning to find its place in the New York art scene — alongside Dondi White, Rammellzee and Keith Haring.

On May 20th, you can check out Niels’s new show titled “Unidenticals and Reverse Paintings” which will be held at Galerie Droste in Wuppertal. In this show, he expressed that calligraphy is more than just a tool for communication. He took and elevated this utilitarian creation in the level of fine art. Here’s an interview where he explained what will his show be and a preview of some of the artworks. Read on.

Interview by Mark Changco.
Art by Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman.
Featured Photo by Bas Uterwijk.

Making of Big Bang

Tell me how did you approach your show “Unidenticals and Reverse Paintings”? What is it about?

I believe the job of the artist is to create a something personal that is both pleasant and unpleasant, by taking impulses form science, philosophy and spirituality.

The theme of duality plays an important role in all three of these realms, and thus has always been present in my work. But it took real shape with the ‘un’. This is a visual and linguistic motif that I started using around 2010.

The ‘un’ and its stylistic form (consisting of four calligraphic strokes) symbolizes the power of reversal. These thick, brush strokes draw attention to themselves as much as to the space between them. Ink, and the absence of ink create black/white, on/off and positive/negative.

Just like all digital data is broken down to one’s and zero’s, everything in our material world can also be broken down to these basic opposites. We can only be comfortable, if we were uncomfortable before. To be alive is only to be undead.

And when science proudly presents its universal laws, artists will understand that they are ununiversal. If you don’t understand this, ununderstand.”

Big Bang

I feel there is a universal duality that connects religious notions like good/evil with existential insights like ‘everything has an opposite’ and findings in quantum physics where particles seem to be mirrored or partnered.The idea to make two semi-similar paintings did not come suddenly. I did two paintings with the four ‘un’-strokes in 2014, and shoes do always come in pairs, right?

Apart from all the conceptual side, I also found that it was a good way to make people look more careful at abstract art. With the two similar paintings next to each other, they are automatically eager to spot the differences. The two canvases are tricking the viewer into observing them. And that really all that paintings want.

In a show statement, it mentioned the philosophy of self-awareness. How did you apply this philosophy to your paintings?

Just like all the dualities I mentioned before, we ourselves are also ‘two’. There is the real you and the projected you; the person you are, and the person you think you are. I know, it all gets really confusing when things like ‘consciousness’ get involved but it seems logical to me that to be self-aware is to create another version of yourself.

It reminds me of this voice-over in a scene of Terminator (1984): “The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes online August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

Underdressed, 2016
Unknowledge, 2014

What piece are you most excited about? Why?

This is like asking parents which one of their children they like best. You should ask the viewers this question, really. But they should keep in mind that the pairs are one piece and should forever stay unseparated.

“Unidenticals and Reversed Paintings” will open on May 20, 2017 and will continue to run until July 15, 2017. For more information about the works, email:

Galerie Droste
Katernbergerstr 100,
42115 Wuppertal, Germany
+49 202 26514 16

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