Bart Lodewijks - Ruivenstraat Drawing (English)

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Ruivenstraat Drawing

Bart Lodewijks

To the residents of Ruivenstraat,

In June, during that warm first week of summer, I made a chalk drawing on the new apartment building on your street. You gave me food and drink. You invited me to a barbecue and pointed out all the things that were wrong with the drawing. ‘You could slope the right side down a bit more steeply. Then the drawing would look more like a chips cone and we’d know what we were talking about,’ said Mireille, a neighbourhood resident with a strong interest in art. I looked at her questioningly. ‘Here in Rotterdam we have The Swan, The Tub, The Shopping Gully and so on. We come up with a name for just about everything,’ she said.

I acted on your advice as best I could. As for the counsel impossible to follow, I include that below. Maybe it will help you think of a name for the drawing, because you Rotterdammers are good at that.

The facade is a seventeen-metre-high wall of rough red tumbled brick with recessed joints. The creases in the bricks echo the furrows of my brow in thought.

‘What is it going to be exactly?’ asks a Moroccan woman, who has a little guy with raven hair standing by her side. ‘What do you think it is?’ I ask him. ‘A cone,’ he says without batting an eye. ‘A cone?’ his mom replies in surprise. ‘I see a Cornetto…’

‘Ugh, Mom, don’t be daft,’ he groans. ‘It’s an ice cream cone without the ice cream.’ I crouch down to the boy and say, ‘Shall I tell you the truth? It’s a drawing.’ He shoots me a look that says, ‘I can see that much for myself.’ ‘This drawing has a storied past,’ I continue. ‘It traversed cities, small towns and wastelands before landing here.’


‘Are you a construction worker?’ the boy asks, glancing sideways at my spider boom, an ultramodern, shiny turquoise dinosaur with a bunch of knobs and levers. His mother looks at him and chuckles. ‘I’m a construction worker who serves no practical purpose. I’ve been drawing on walls and buildings with blackboard chalk for many years, but no one can live in what I make,’ I reply. My voice drops an octave: ‘Most of the chalk drawings I’ve done in the past have washed away in the rain, but this one is being fixed.’

I tower over the street in the platform basket of the spider lift, a tiny cage I can’t even turn around in. But by pulling or pushing the various levers, I can move the platform up or down, right or left.

It is easier with one of these boom lifts to adopt the right drawing position than when I am standing on the ground, where so much effort goes into crouching, kneeling and reaching up.


An elderly woman with a walker asks what the drawing is supposed to be. ‘It’s an ice cream cone without the scoops,’ I say. She considers the drawing without saying anything. ‘You might also make out a triangle in the shape of a ship. With a bit of imagination, you can see the triangle floating on the wall, like a ship on the water,’ I continue. She looks at me dubiously and shuffles off. Two years ago I made a similar triangular drawing about four kilometres from here, on Noordereiland, like a sister to this one. At the time, one of the neighbourhood women said, ‘Your ship doesn’t have enough buoyancy; it would keel over immediately upon hitting the water. That’s called “capsizing” in shipping lingo. What you’ve got there, that wouldn’t work.’

When I’m finished, the lad with the black hair comes back and stands next to me. ‘And, did you get your ice cream?’ I ask. He pulls a face and says, ‘I don’t like ice cream at all; it’s only the cones I like. Weird, huh…?’ ‘Yeah, that is a bit odd, but the cones are free and keep for a long time, so it’s also sort of smart.’ We continue looking at the drawing in silence. ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a construction worker too,’ he says suddenly. ‘A kind of construction worker,’ he adds confidentially, then lowers his voice slightly and says, ‘Just like you.’


The visual artist Bart Lodewijks has been producing large-scale linear chalk drawings in public and private spaces since 2001. He uses blackboard chalk to draw on buildings like churches and hospitals and out on the streets in towns and cities all over the world, writing about the process and the people he meets. In his exhibitions, publications, newspapers and e-books, as well as in lectures and live performances that incorporate film fragments, he describes how his encounters with local residents, visitors, passers-by and children enable his drawing process.

When the housing association Woonstad Rotterdam commissioned hp architects to build a housing block in the Oude Noorden neighbourhood of Rotterdam, people wanted it to include a mural on the west facade, along Ruivenstraat. Woonstad Rotterdam turned for proposals to Murals Inc., an agency specializing in contemporary murals, and they in turn reached out to Lodewijks for the artwork on the building.



Drawings and text: Bart Lodewijks

Photos: Bart Lodewijks

Editing: Danielle van Zuijlen

Dutch copy editing: Lucy Klaassen

English translation: Nina Woodson

Graphic design: Roger Willems

Publisher: Roma Publications, Amsterdam

This project was made possible in part by: Murals Inc.

hp architects

Woonstad Rotterdam

Mondriaan Fund

Thanks to: Marleen van Wijngaarden, Rufus van den Ban, Maarten Janssen

© Bart Lodewijks, 2023

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