When Dutch artist Jeroen Meijer shared his latest mosaic with us earlier this year, we were stunned by the depth and beauty of it.
This commemoration of his mother’s passing was so moving on so many levels, we spent a great deal of time studying it before contacting him with our many questions. He graciously answered all of them, sharing in his own words (below) the background behind a piece that shimmers with emotional realism. We are honored to share it with MAN readers here.
As you explore “Con Te Partirò” (Time To Say Goodbye), consider how mosaic and only mosaic could have enabled Meijer to achieve his goals for this work. The artist is a master storyteller, weaving the “warp” of carefully selected and custom-made tesserae with the “weft” of imagery, symbolism and composition to create a rich tapestry of spirituality. One could easily think of Meijer’s work as a modern-day take on the work of the 17th century Dutch Masters.
Here is the entire image again, which we hope you will click to enlarge.
Here is the Holy Trinity and a reference to his mother’s marital life in the triangular shape of the work itself. A sort of “reverse pietá” exists in the position of Meijer and his mother on her bed. In the foreground a crow, a multi-cultural symbol of insight, destiny, transformation and death carrying a wedding ring in its beak sits in front of portraits of the two deceased husbands.
A pair of scissors in Meijer’s hand signals his participation in making the decision to suspend his mother’s life support.
As you’ll discover in his description of Con Te Partirò, every single item has meaning. The result is a level of density and raw emotionalism that we seldom see in mosaic.
We first introduced Meijer (and his mother) to MAN readers in 2012 (to see more of his fantastic portraits, click here). Coincidentally, Meijer was recently contacted by a production company with a request to use “Mater Nostra” on the set of an American television series that will be debuting soon.
Meijer’s voice is powerful and authentic and his use of the mosaic medium unique and refreshing. We understand a solo exhibition is in the works and hope to see his work in upcoming international exhibitions.
Con Te Partirò By Jeroen Meijer
In August of 2010, my mother had a very severe stroke. My brothers, sisters, and I decided that, according to her wishes, she would be cut off from life-support systems and so let nature take its course. It took ten days for my mother’s body to surrender. During those ten days my brothers, sisters and I took shifts to be at her bedside.
We decorated the room with souvenirs from every family member and photographs of her two deceased husbands. We filled it with the soft tunes of her favorite CDs including Vangelis’ “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and Andrea Bocelli and his famous “Con te partirò“ (Time To Say Goodbye). I believe that when the spirit elevates from the body it actually can see the room where it has died. We tried to create a space that would feel familiar for my mother on her journey.
Most of the time my partner Buba and I took the night shift with my mother. Every morning at sunrise, looking through the window, we noticed two crows sitting on the rooftop of the hospital warming up in the first beams of sunlight. I liked to believe that the two birds were my deceased father and stepfather waiting for my mother to die – waiting to accompany her spirit towards the light.
For me the biggest sadness and dilemma was to deprive my mother – who was the very symbol of nourishment, safety, and unconditional love in my life – of bodily nourishment and so, to let her die. Equally difficult was to come to see that decision as the ultimate act of love on my part.
About the title: During this period we stayed at my mothers place. We left the radio tuned in to the only station she ever listened to – one that exclusively played German folks songs or “schlagers.” One morning, while Buba and I were making preparations to leave for the hospital, we were amazed to hear Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te partiro” coming from the radio. Half a minute later the phone rang. It was my sister calling from the hospital. Our mother had just died.
While I was working on this mosaic – and even now – I feel grateful that my mother gave my brothers, my sisters and me the opportunity to help and share her last moments.
Notes about the mosaic:
At some point I had to take a little nap and Buba, touched by the moment, took this photograph with her mobile phone.
The bedding I made from shards of my mother’s “fancy” dinner service. This type of colonial pottery called “Boerenbont” (multi-coloured farmer style) was very popular in the 60s and 70s. Because every item was hand painted (exclusively by women!) the dishes were also quite expensive. Therefore, they became a popular birthday-present for children – like me and my siblings – to give to their mothers until the service was complete.
When I thought about it after completing this mosaic, I realized that all my brothers and sisters had contributed tesserae to create this beautiful family patchwork blanket. The decoration of this pottery is nice and simple; I liked using it, because it reflects for me my mother’s uncomplicated personality.
I made hexagonal tesserae to create a honey comb room for my mother. The Queen Bee’s first occupation is to build perfect shelters with (sweet) nourishment for her offspring; I wished to return to my mother what she had given to me.
After my mother remarried, she and her new husband (in the blue coat in the left-hand photo) agreed that they would be buried together in the same grave.
As I was completing the mosaic, I saw at the Hieronymus* Bosch museum in Den Bosch a replica of “Ascent of the Blessed”, a painting that was part of the four panel polyptych “Visions of the Hereafter.”
I believe that the Flemish master was the first to paint a “tunnel of light” in connection with the afterlife. Studying this painting, I am certain he was familiar with stories of near-death experiences and “rebirthing.” (hence the “birth canal” of light).
*A coincidence is that my name, Jeroen, is derived from the Greek “Hieronymus.”
Jeroen Meijer, March 2014