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Symbolism and Storytelling in Contemporary Mosaic: Jeroen Meijer

On 13, Sep 2012 | 25 Comments | In Uncategorized | By Nancie

Jeroen Meijer “HIgh Expectations and A Dog Called Lucky” 2007″ 127 x 72 cm (inc. frame) Vitreous tile, stone, glass beads, photo transfer on tile, bullets, chain, copper rod, jigsaw pieces.

“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Phillip Pullman

With the current aesthetic in mosaic leaning heavily towards abstract work, mosaicists who tell stories, like Jeroen Meijer, are rare. The Dutch artist creates haunting images that make one wonder “Who are these people? What is happening to them?” Looking for answers, we set a series of questions to Mr. Meijer who responded with thoughtfulness and candor.  Be prepared to look very, very closely at these mosaics.  Much like the Dutch painters of the 17th century, almost every detail in Meijer’s work has meaning–from the andamento to the tesserae.  

Why mosaic?

Why mosaic? Because, my mosaic technique enables me to tell my stories perfectly.

I see myself as a builder, a storyteller and a sculptor. As a sculptor, working in only one material has never really satisfied me. I need the interplay – the energy-interaction of different elements or materials – that can happen in a mosaic. I like it when I can cut things, break them, saw them, polish them, glue them, and combine them until I have just the right composition.

The mosaic technique has unique qualities. It is like a big puzzle where every little piece is carefully selected for its place. It is also a very meditative activity. Physically, there are no limits. A mosaic is like a firm statement that can last for ages; it is permanent.

“The Longing, The Lust, The Lost” 119 x 208 cm. Vitreous and ceramic tile, glass gems and beads, photo transfer on tile.

I supplement the tesserae I find with photographic tiles I make myself. First, I manipulate a photo in Photoshop so it becomes more graphic and then, using a special copy machine, I transfer that image onto white bathroom tile.

Who or what are influences for you?

I was always intrigued by the paintings of Gustav Klimt in which the faces and hands are three dimensional and the fabrics are just flat patterns. Another great influence for me are the “story book” painters of the late medieval and early Renaissance like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel. Every little thing – the details, the symbols, the images and the colors – in their paintings had a purpose towards telling a story or making a statement. To create more space in their compositions and to layer in even more details, they used a very flat perspective.

Jeroen Meijer “I Never Expected To Want A Purple Octopus” 155 x 94 cm.  Tile, stone, glass gems, watch, photo transfer on white tile.

What inspires a new work for you?

The starting point for almost all my objects and mosaics has been is an “objet-trouve”; something I have found that intrigues me enough to keep it for later use. Nowadays, that object is often a candid photograph in which I find some metaphor of a human condition or quality.

My most important muse is my partner, Buba Cvoric, whom I met at a sculpture-ceramic symposium in Serbia in 2006. Buba had just finished at an art academy there and had plans to do her masters studies in Holland. Her subsequent move here, reactions to the Dutch culture, and her struggles to stay here have had profound effects on my life and have served as starting points for several of my mosaics.

Please walk us through your thinking on some of your favorite works.

High Expectations And A Dog Called Lucky (2007)

This mosaic is the story of Buba’s early struggles to create a new life for herself in Holland.

It started with a photo of Buba in the garden of her parents home in Serbia. She has just taken a shower and her hair is wrapped in a towel. She wears China slippers and stands before the garden wall made of bricks.

Jeroen Meijer “HIgh Expectations and a Dog Called Lucky” 2007″ 127 x 72 cm (inc. frame) Vitreous tile, stone, glass beads, photo print on tile, bullets, chain, copper rod, jigsaw pieces.

At that time, Buba was busy with all the frustrating paperwork for her move to Holland; visa, study application, funding, etc. In the mosaic, these troubles are represented by chains. Her suitcase is packed and ready for travel (bottom right), but she is bound. Her dog, Lucky, is biting through Buba’s chains – helping her. (This crazy dog is called Lucky because Buba’s sister found him as a small puppy in a garbage container.)

“High Expectations And A Dog Called Lucky” detail

Buba can only see her expectations for her future through a barred window in the wall. Her expectations are butterflies – a symbol of transition and beautiful change. The wall made of rocks is beginning to break down, almost disappearing in a kind of digital, virtual sky and some of the butterflies have escaped.

Although I had some doubts that all of the paperwork could get done on time, Buba’s persistence and great willpower made it happen. At the very last minute, both a solution for her visa problems and a scholarship showed up. As someone who once felt the urge to move away from his roots himself, I understood what was driving her. If you want something very much, many times Good Luck will come by itself!

Detail: The butterflies above the wall have bodies made from bullets. In 1999, Buba witnessed the NATO bombing of Novi-Sad, her home town. Ironically, Holland, her destiny and new home, was involved in the destruction of her old country.

A Cup of Coffee, A Cookie and a Hug

In the 1970’s, Holland had the reputation of being a very liberal and open country that welcomed immigrants. Today, it is probably one of the most xenophobic countries in Europe and the multicultural “experiment” of the 70s is considered a failure. Now, all immigrants have to adapt fast and participate in the “inburgerings-programma” (citizen program) which requires, among other things, that they learn the Dutch language.

The starting point for this mosaic was a photograph I took of Buba lying on the floor prepared to have her face cast in plaster for an object I was making. It looked to me as if she was wearing one of those fabric caps that are part of traditional Dutch costumes. Simultaneously, I found a set of babushkas in my studio (a souvenir of a trip my mother made to Russia) wearing their traditional kerchiefs.

What came into my mind was the image of a traditional Delfish-blue Dutch landscape with an “invasion” of Eastern European immigrants – the “Babushkas”.

Jeroen Meijer “A Cup of Coffee, A Cookie and A Hug” 2009 193 x 129 cm (inc. frame) Ceramic tile, glass gems, photo transfers on white bathroom tile.

My first title was Bubashkas in Citizenland, but that might imply that I had a problem with these Eastern European immigrants. Luckily, Buba came to me with a story which gave me a better title.

To help her learn the required Dutch language and earn money, Buba had taken a job in a home for the elderly. One day, one of the residents became angry with Buba when her coffee and cookie weren’t delivered at exactly the usual time.

Buba, new to the situation, had no other way to respond to this anger than to give the resident a big spontaneous hug and a smile. The crisis immediately ended.

Detail: The image of the blue cows I took from a milk chocolate candy bar that was popular when in Holland I was young.

Mater Nostra

This mosaic is a tribute to my mother.

In the photograph, you can see her in her favorite chair inviting someone to play Yahtzee. When you visited my mother, any effort to simply sit and talk was futile, at some point you had to play and she was very good at the game!

Jeroen Meijer “Mater Nostra” 2008 108 x 80 cm (inc. frame)

In the mosaic, she wears a nun’s habit because it was her costume for my very raucous 40th birthday party which had a medieval theme. I was shocked when I first saw her that night because I thought she was my deceased aunt who had actually been a nun! During the party, many people thought my mother was a nun because of her gentle demeanor and open attitude for everything that was going on.

I created a sort of medieval monasterial setting for the mosaic and used the flat perspective that was the predominant painting style of that time period. It allowed me to include many details that tell my mother’s story.

Details:  The three-dimensional dice have a Yahtzee score from any angle.

The crucifix is upside down because of a previous work of mine that my mother had liked a lot.



Man ist was man isst (You are what you eat) shows Jesus (ichtus = fish) diving in the sea where hungry fish are eager to eat him. Jesus said, “Eat my body and become like me” – therefore all who eat him can act in His name while everyone else is wrong.

Last month, Jeroen Meijer and his partner, Buba Cvoric, completed the 600 mile El Camino de Santiago walk through Spain following a route established by Christian pilgrims over 1,200 years ago. One wonders what stories will come from that experience.

Meijer’s current “day job” is as an instructor in the wood and steel workshop of the Fine Art Department of the Art Academy of Utrecht. He is working on a series of mosaics for a solo exhibition in 2013.

On September 10, 2012, Buba Cvoric participated in a naturalization ceremony that made her a citizen of The Netherlands.

UPDATE:   March 2014 – A new work from Meijer “Con Te Partiro” Read about this moving commemoration of the passing of the artist’s mother here:


JeroenMeijerHigh ExpectationsAndADogCalledLucky2007

Jeroen Meijer "HIgh Expectations and a Dog Called Lucky" 2007" 127 x 72 cm (inc. frame) Vitreous tile, stone, glass beads, photo print on tile, bullets, chain, copper rod, jigsaw pieces.


"The Longing, The Lust, The Lost" 119 x 208 cm. Vitreous and ceramic tile, glass gems and beads, photo transfer on tile.




Jeroen Meijer "I Never Expected To Want A Purple Octopus" 155 x 94 cm.




"High Expectations And A Dog Called Lucky" detail










Jeroen Meijer "A Cup of Coffee, A Cookie and A Hug" 2009 193 x 129 cm (inc. frame) Ceramic tile, glass gems, photo transfers on white bathroom tile.









JeroenMeijerMaterNostra2008  Ceramic tile, stone, glass, found objects, photo transfer on white tile.

Jeroen Meijer "Mater Nostra" 2008 108 x 80 cm (inc. frame)










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  1. Sylvia Foulk

    Hoi Jeroen. Ik woon since 1993 in America, Lancaster PA. Ik ben geboren en getogen in Limburg, en ben nu een cursus Ceramic Tile Mosaic aan het volgen. De eerste opdracht is een mosaic kunstenaar te vinden en een voordracht te geven. Ik zag je naam en mijn nieuwschierigheid werd beloond: een kunstenaar uit Nederland. Ik vind je werken zeer interesant en ik ben zeker dat mijn klasgenoten ook van je prachtige composities zullen genieten.

    • Jeroen Meijer

      Hallo Sylvia,Ik ben vereerd en ik ben benieuwd naar de reacties, mocht je nog vragen/wensen hebben mag je me ook direct e-mailen. Mijn e-mail adres staat vermeld in mijn website ;
      Veel plezier en succes met je voordracht!

  2. celso adolfo

    inacreditável!!!!!hiper contemporaneo mosaaico!!POP !!!fusão de imagens,teceras,conceitos,memória…love love love!

    • Jeroen

      Thanks, thanks, thanks, dank je wel!

  3. Sabine

    Hé Jeroen,
    Mooi~(nieuw) werk! ik vind t super gaaf wat je maakt.
    Tot rond kerst?!
    groetjes uit Auvillar

    • Jeroen

      Hoi Sabine,
      Bedankt! Jouw printen zijn klaar maar het zal nog even moeten wachten tot ik er mee bezig ga, maar “Jeanne d’Arc” zit al een beetje in mijn achterhoofd!
      Kerst!? jatoch!

  4. cristina

    Interesting approach to this old tecnhic!! I read the images more in terms of collages, not only because of the variety of materials used but as well because of the photography perspective on them. But what I really like about your work is how you transfer the rigidity of the mosaic as technic to the photos you take(as first step of the process, for example the photo you made for A Cup of Coffee, A Cookie and a Hug). Have you ever looked at these photos as works in themselves? I would like to see more of those….

    • Jeroen

      I totaly agree with your discription, on my website I also refer to ” technique ” as ” mosaic collage ” Can you please explain to me what exactly you mean with ” transfer the rigidity of the mosaic as technic to yhe photos “I want to be sure I understand you right.thanks

  5. Paula

    I’ve loved your work. It is so colorful and vivid! It seems like the characters are comimg out of the mosaic to reach our sight and souls. The mixed techniques are very well blended together and the details are genuinely symbolic! I like very much how the modern and the classical meet each other. Congratulations.
    Paula, Spain.

    • Jeroen

      All human conditions have been discribed already, so I believe that it is the challenge for every contemporary artist to find his personal tune for the classical songs.
      I am glad that you like my approach.

  6. Arjan

    What a wonderful article, great to see some in-depth information. High quality mosaic.
    Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.


    • Jeroen

      Thanks Arjan, as I like to say : “if it doesn’t touch your guts, it ain’t much !”
      I am glad you liked it that much.

  7. eemke

    Ha Jeroen mooi werk ! en een mooi artikel ook , gefeliciteerd en ik ben benieuwd naar je expositie ! grtjs aan Buba

  8. Julie

    What a wonderful story of two lives and the inspiration that keeps moving Jeroen’s work into new areas. I enjoyed reading about it!

    • Jeroen

      Altough I like it when people imagine their own story, I am slso very happy that you enjoyed the real story behind it. thank you !

  9. Adriana Mufarrege

    Hi Jeroen.
    I’m writing to you from Argentina, Southamerica. I’ve been looking through the web for nearly two years and it´s the first time I find an artist working in the same concept I work, a mixture of mosaic and realistic images. You print the figures, I paint them, but the concept is the same. I´m glad I´ve found you. Your works look great in the photos, but they must certainly look even better in situ. I wish I could see them.

    • Nancie

      Thanks so much for the comment, Adriana. I went to your website and see that you and Jeroen are simpatico in your approach to mosaic. It makes me so happy to see artists like you two connect across the globe. Warm regards, Nancie

      • Adriana Mufarrege

        Thank you Nancie. This is one of the things this excellent website causes: communication between artists.

  10. Leen Kessels

    Ben echt onder de indruk van je werk Jeroen. Heb jammer genoeg nog maar een paar van je mosaicen live gezien. Je werk verdiend een mooie grote solo expositie!
    Veel succes!

    • Jeroen

      Dank je, ik zet je op de uitnodigingslijst, je zult het horen als het zover is.
      Ik mis griekenlsnd wel en beetje , doe iedereen de groeten van mij. groetjes

  11. Sé van Weert

    Fantastisch werk, helemaal van ondersteboven !!!

  12. nick

    Bravo sou Jeroen! Ik spreek je morgen.

  13. Marcelo de Melo

    Gefeliciteerd met je mooie werk, Jeroen.
    Een van de beste Nederlandse mozaïek-kunstenaars.
    Well done.

    • Jeroen

      Bedankt voor je reactie, je maakt zelf ook zeer intrigerend werk, misschien vindt je het ook een goed idee om eens een keer langs te komen! We zijn tenslotte buren!
      groeten jeroen

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