Working from home has become a big part of daily life for lots of us. To visualise how daylight can transform a (work)space and improve creativity and productivity, home improvement brand VELUX launched their Artist Residency program. VELUX invited six international artists to visualise their take on the theme Transforming Spaces. Click ‘Explore’ to discover all artworks and artist interviews.

Maria Bodil’s Conceptual Artworks Will Take You to the Edge of Reality

The creative duo from Amsterdam show us how stripping down an image can open up a world of optical illusions.

If you glimpsed quickly at Maria Bodil’s work, there is a good chance you wouldn’t see what is really there. Take a closer look at their photography, and an intricate play of shapes and light springs to life. Maria Bodil consists of Marthe Bodil Vos and Lieve Maria Eek, and their work has not gone unnoticed. Although they have only relatively recently started working together, they are already widely published, and have created a series for the renowned Dutch fashion designers Iris van Herpen and Claes Iversen.

Home improvement brand VELUX invited the artists behind Maria Bodil to take part in their Artist Residency campaign, giving them the opportunity to show their strength in manipulating spaces and shapes with natural light and colour. VELUX’s Artist Residency has seen them collaborate with artists around the world, encouraging them to play with natural light and roof windows. This year, the theme of the residency is “Transforming Spaces”, so we asked Marthe and Lieve what space, daylight and shapes mean to them.

Hello Marthe and Lieve. So, how would you describe your artistic style as a creative duo?

Lieve: We always gravitate towards the strange and the surreal. We often play on the edge of real versus fake, or create worlds that don't seem to make sense. This usually results in quite stylised images, but they do carry a certain degree of vulnerability within them.

Marthe: In addition, we try to express our love for design, art and architecture within the relatively 'flat' medium of photography. We involve different disciplines in our work, in order to arrive at a more three-dimensional end product. We often work with 3D and try to find new ways to incorporate and mix this with our photography. For this project, we designed a 3D space, which we then printed really big and used again as the backdrop.

Your pieces are very conceptual. Where does your inspiration come from?

Marthe: We start with a huge pile of ideas and write down everything that comes to mind. Then we filter out the idea that appeals to us the most.

Lieve: At the same time, we start reading into the subject, to see what it means to us. We then discuss our findings together to try and intuitively feel what we want to continue with.

What inspired your pieces for VELUX?

Lieve: During our residency, we wanted to explore how daylight can transform a space by creating an optical illusion. As such, the printed shadows on the backdrop seem to be correct, but actually aren’t realistic at all when you take a closer look. For instance, we created daylight in the print in places where there is no window. This resulted in a very special, spherical play of light and shadow. 

Marthe: Because the print is two-dimensional, it looks like a painting. It’s a reference to Edward Hopper, who also worked a lot with light and windows. With that inspiration, we have created a modern version of his vision.

What is the story being told in the works you created for VELUX?

Marthe: Our initial idea was that a two-dimensional backdrop would optically enlarge a three-dimensional space. In addition, of course, you see the woman, the model, whose house we appear to be looking into. She tells a story, and as we look over her shoulder, it almost feels as if we’re looking through another window, an extra layer. Each of the three photos we took depicts a different stage of her day and shows how the natural light falling in through VELUX’s window reacts differently to the environment.

A recurring theme in your work is the use of pure but innovative forms. How have you approached this during this residency?

Lieve: Something that runs through all of our work – regardless of the stylist or 3D designer we work with – is that everything is stripped down to the most minimal form. It has to be less and less, tighter and tighter. That graphic style is very characteristic to our work, but without losing its human element. That is our challenge.

Marthe: In addition, there is always a kind of mysterious edge to it, something intangible.

To what extent do you take the final exhibition space or form into account during the creative process?

Marthe: We’re doing this more and more. We are part of a culture in which artists create pieces specifically for Instagram. We deliberately didn't do that during this residency, but instead tried to make our pieces feel like paintings. It also felt like a personal investigation into how we can make a flat image feel more three dimensional.

Has this VELUX residency changed your perspective on the use of natural light?

Lieve: I’ve become very aware of all the blinds I see around me now [laughs].

Marthe: Indeed! It's funny that since this project, all kinds of specific types of blinds and their light suddenly strike me. Because we have incorporated many different forms of light in this series, it was also an interesting lesson for us about what you can do with light.

Lieve: We have also read quite a bit about daylight and are now much more aware of certain simple things, for example that you need a certain amount of daylight every day to combat symptoms of depression.

Do you feel as if you become more productive when you’re in a space with proper daylight?

Marthe: We've only been working together for a year and a half, but luckily we immediately looked for a workspace, so we had our own studio during the pandemic. We have very large windows here and sometimes even use it as a photostudio, which is a lovely asset as well. 

Lieve: When the pandemic started, we had just graduated. Since no company was hiring new people and everything looked so hopeless, we decided to rent a space and just start our own business. The fact that we had such a lovely workspace was very motivating.

Marthe: Whenever the sun comes through on gray days, I immediately stand in front of the window to soak up the light [laughs].

What are your plans for the future?

Marthe: Last year we tried a bit of everything and did a lot of commissioned jobs. Now I would like to make some more personal pieces and work towards an exhibition. This also allows us to use more physical 3D objects. Online everything just passes by so quickly. 

Lieve: Indeed, we’d also like to be three-dimensional in the way we present our work to the public, instead of showing everything online. Now that we're out of our startup phase, I'd like to dive deeper into certain long-term projects or ideas.