Machteld Rullens (1988, NL) gathers cardboard boxes, saving them from destruction and accumulating these functional objects for their role as envelope, protector and envoy. Rullens petrifies them in colour and resin, often stacking them together - their flaps agape like unshut mouths or with flaps closed, private and enshrouding their contents. For the occasion of her first solo exhibition at Gallery Martin van Zomeren, she introduces a series of these objects rendered in bronze and cardboard frozen in resin, presenting alongside another form of container: seeds, energetically spread across the space by an automatic wildlife feeder activated once every hour.
As many of these boxes are found on the street, that which was abandoned is transformed into energetic and gritty architecture, calling into question notions of value and permanence. Using resin, she saturates her cardboard boxes with strength and a sense of longevity. In the centre of the space a wildlife feeder attached to a bucket of seeds dangles from the ceiling. Timer-activated once every hour, it sprays the gallery floor with a mix of flower seeds that may be taken by the visitor and sown outside. These seeds parallel the boxes as containers of potential growth, inactive until the appropriate conditions cause them to germinate. The notion of “reaping what you sow” is particularly applicable to her work. Often leaving weeks or months between layers of colour and resin, Rullens remembers each successive act of applying a new layer and the moments surrounding them, each layer demarcating time like the concentric rings of a tree stump.
Because of their placing, the bronze boxes catch some of the seeds with open arms, inviting the audience to do the same. There is a natural patina from when the bronze is poured, it is left raw - unsanded and seemingly weathered. In this way, the manufacturing cycles of production and waste are momentarily paused, creating a new moment to be observed. Within such a moment, the composition of the boxes is thrown into question. Cardboard, cheaply manufactured - with an unstable and short life - is manipulated in such a way, either through casting in bronze or the application of epoxy and pigment, so material questions emerge: are the works plastic, paper, ceramic? The results deny conventional hierarchies of the value of materials.