The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

James William Murray interviews Cecilia Vissers

September 2023

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

Curve No.3, 2020, edition 5, hot rolled steel + wax, 12x61x1cm

1. ‘Curve No.3’, 2020, edition 5, hot rolled steel + wax, 12x61x1cm

1. ‘Curve No.3’, 2020, edition 5, hot rolled steel + wax, 12x61x1cm

1. ‘Curve No.3’, 2020, edition 5, hot rolled steel + wax, 12x61x1cm

Cecilia Vissers and I both explore distinct formal problems with certain similarities. For the past 30 years, Cecilia has been working with the central motif of the curve, which she explores principally through hot-rolled steel and aluminium wall-mounted objects and floor pieces. My own practice is centred on a 1:2 cruciform – a problem that emerged through a series of drawings I made during a residency in Marfa, Texas USA, in the summer of 2022.

It was during my time in Texas that I first encountered Cecilia’s work at inde/jacobs gallery in Marfa, which has represented her for almost ten years. After making contact via social media, I visited Cecilia at her home and studio in Sint-Oedenrode in The Netherlands exactly one year later. Cecilia and her husband Hans welcomed me into their home and fed me a delicious vegetarian meal. Over the day and evening we spent together, Cecilia and I discussed several overlapping concerns and experiences in our lives as artists. We set out to consolidate some of these overlaps in this interview.

Cecilia and I meeting at this juncture in our careers feels significant. It marks the inception of a promising connection. Cecilia, having dedicated 30 years to exploring the curve, is now entering a pivotal phase we might call the 'third chapter' of her career. Meanwhile, I'm embarking on a new body of work centred on the cruciform, a trajectory I foresee continuing throughout my career. We both share a sense of contentment that our paths intersected at this point in time. I eagerly anticipate our further discussions, particularly during her upcoming presentation at Saturation Point on 24 September 2023.

James William Murray: I understand that the pieces showcased at Saturation Point belong to an ongoing project entitled ‘The Ocean Path’, which you initially exhibited at Scott Miller Projects in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, earlier this year. Could you please walk me through the pieces you are presenting in this exhibition and explain how they connect to the broader body of work?

Cecilia Vissers: People who know my work will immediately notice the expansion of my colour palette with purple, the colour of magic and power. I’ll show a new series of works entitled ‘Voe’. Each aluminium sculpture consists of two parts; the space between the two parts is very important. In theory, one could think away the sculpture’s tangible parts (the aluminium) and consider the space between them the actual sculpture. This is an interplay between the positive and negative space, the visible and invisible – what one feels and what one sees.  My black/white photo prints of the wild landscapes and coastlines of the Shetland islands will be shown next to my aluminium sculptures. Here you see many coastal landscapes that are intersected by so-called voes or fjords. These photographs form the basis for my minimalist sculptures, it’s my aim to ‘link’ the abstract with the world around us. My multi-faceted project, entitled ‘The Ocean Path’, started in November 2022 with a working period on the Shetland Islands, a sub-arctic archipelago lying between Orkney, the Faroe Islands, and Norway. The exhibition at SP is the second exhibition in a series of four exhibitions. The third and fourth exhibitions will take place at Icoon Museum Hoek van Holland and the culture factory Noordkade in the city of Veghel (NL).

JWM: Could you please elaborate on your process, focusing on materials and the industrial techniques you employ? Additionally, can you discuss the collaborative relationships you have developed with craftspeople in relation to these processes?

CV: In my sculptures I look for strong and clear forms (hard-edge) with minimal features. Metal is the one perfect material for my sculptures because of its thickness, weight, and sharp edges. Working in such a hard material requires a well-thought-out plan; most interventions in a plate of steel or aluminium are irreversible so I want to make sure that the result meets my expectations. This characteristic of metal is consistent with my belief that each action has its effect, no matter how small the intervention is. The starting point of my work is a design in cardboard; after a 30-year career I have piles of designs in my studio. The next step is the execution of my works in steel or aluminium. This process is technically very complex; I deliver my models and digital files to three specialised metal companies. The aluminium works are milled using a 3D-milling technique in a closed cabin. The industrial colouring of aluminium usually requires more attention from a company, and this must fit into the production process. I do many material and colour proofs before I decide what thickness, surface treatment and shade of colour I choose for a particular design. The collaboration with specialised craftspeople in the industries is a very important part of my work. I have been working for 25 years with the same water-cutting company, where I can also store my material. These contacts are very important in my practice. Besides, it's inspiring to visit companies and learn what technical processes they use to produce metal objects in different forms, colours, and alloys.

JWM: While our work strictly adheres to non-representational forms, neither of us denies the presence of semantic content. How do you perceive the relationship between spirituality, nature, and abstraction within your work, and how do these elements shape its meaning?

CV: The exclusion of the unnecessary makes it possible to focus on the essential. Many studio visits lead to interesting, in-depth conversations about the essence of life.  To me art and life are inseparable, there is a rise and fall, just like the waves in the ocean, a continuous movement. This brings me to the relationship of nature in my work. Although my metal sculptures appear to be abstract, each piece invokes my own landscape experience. I have a fascination for remote and wild places like Achill Island (IRL) and more recently the Shetland Islands. My travel to the northernmost cliffs of the Shetland Islands inspired me to start my project ‘The Ocean Path’. My works are characterised by a rectangular shape with incisions, or internal 'curves’. The addition of the 'external' curves or ‘waves’ is a totally new development in my work. It seems like a small step, but to me it feels like a revolution. These small subtle shifts are important and bring me closer to the essence of life. A small shift can be enough to bring about a significant change. These coastal landscapes reveal a fundamental truth. The power and serenity of nature bring me closer to the essence of life.

JWM: We both work with central formal ‘problems’; I explore a 1:2 cruciform motif, which is relatively new to me, but you have been working with the curve for the past 30 years. I am curious to hear what you have learned from the experience of working with this central form for so long...


CV: The ‘curve’ is a lifelong challenge to me, a positive certainty in my life. There are infinite variations in this theme, most of them just small changes that always take me a step further in my never-ending investigation. The road is long and inspiring. My first curve was a hand-cut curve in a rough strip of steel (1999); at that time I had no idea this would be the central theme in my work. Curve No.1 is still on my workbench, it’s my prototype. Sometimes people ask if it’s for sale, the answer is “I don’t sell my soul, not even for a million euros”. The curve is a small intervention in the metal plate, it changes the appearance of the strict geometric rectangle. The curve adds some lightness. Just a small change can affect the whole.


Stromness Voe, purple/purple, 2-part, 2023 milled aluminium + coating, 22.50 x 79 x 1.20cm

Dales Voe, purple/purple, 2-part, 2023 milled aluminium + coating, 22.50 x 79 x 1.20cm

1775, Hermaness, Unst, Shetland Islands, 2023 black/white print on Ilford, 30x45x2cm

Blue Mull, purple/silver, 2-part, edition 3, 2023 milled aluminium + coating, 7x28.50x1.20cm

1778, Hermaness, Unst, Shetland Islands, 2023 black/white print on Ilford, 30x45x2cm