When we look at a roll of adhesive packing tape, what normally comes to mind are nightmare home moves or the impatience and excitement of opening packages. But when Max Zorn looks at the same roll of packing tape, he sees a fundamental tool for telling stories.
Max Zorn is a Dutch artist that does not use brushes, acrylic colours or spray cans. The tools of Zorn’s trade are common brown packing tape and a scalpel, like the ones used by surgeons.
Zorn revealed in an interview with CBS, that the idea came to him when he was walking around Amsterdam: “I saw these beautiful city lights. They define Amsterdam in such a charming way. And I thought, that's a completely underexplored canvas that cities have to offer.” Zorn therefore began experimenting with different materials and hanging them from street lamps until he came up with the idea of working with packing tape.
In tape art, light is a fundamental element. Through the various layers of tape, light brings out the stories and characters and makes them real, dynamic and dramatic. The sepia effect created by the combination of light and brown packing tape also adds a nostalgic gloss to the Dutch artist’s creations.
Zorn has said, “I didn't want to work on walls or on the floor I wanted to use street lamps as an urban gallery and I wanted to use the darkness as the setting around my artwork.” His art is therefore “made by dint of taking out”, to quote Michelangelo Buonarroti: Zorn sticks numerous layers of adhesive tape to transparent panels that are then rear-lit either by LEDs or the sunlight that streams through the windows of his studio. Then, he cuts sections of the tape away, using his scalpel to create characters and landscapes.
How Max Zorn’s tape art is created
In tape art, light is a fundamental element. Through the various layers of tape, light brings
out the stories and characters and makes them real, dynamic and dramatic.
Zorn’s sources of inspiration are mainly literary, especially the authors of the Lost Generation like Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. Fitzgerald’s famous quotation, “show me a hero and I’ll show you a tragedy” is a compass for the Dutch artist and sums up what his art talks about. In short, the second the masks we use every day come off, our eyes reveal everything about ourselves. “My art is about our inner conflicts and our loneliness in an opulent world. It may seem nostalgic at first, to refer to writers from a past era, but I see much of the aimlessness they and their protagonists struggled with evident in our generation as well.” declared Zorn in an interview with Designboom magazine.
Often the night is not a “friend” of street art as the lack of natural light and the city’s artificial lighting sometimes undermine this kind of work. But Max Zorn’s tape art surmounts these obstacles and comes alive thanks to the night and public lighting that not only allow people to appreciate his works, but also increase their narrative force by creating a dramatic and nostalgic mood.