Marjan Wouda was born in the North East of the Netherlands, where she grew up on her family’s small dairy farm. She came to England when she was 19, having finished secondary school “hungry for experience and independence”. Four years later – in 1983 - she embarked on a Visual Arts Foundation Course at Manchester Polytechnic, followed by a Fine Art Degree Course - specialising in sculpture - at North East London Polytechnic, at the completion of which she was awarded a First Class Honours Degree. In 1987 Marjan returned to Manchester to complete her formal art training with an MA in Fine Art (Sculpture).
Whilst still a student, her work was selected for an internationally touring exhibition, Germinations IV, which took it to Marseille, Breda (Holland), London (Royal College of Art), and Bonn.
Initially working mainly in clay, Marjan started casting in bronze and other materials, working from originals in cardboard, clay or wax. She enjoys working in a huge range of scales, from the hand-held pieces in paper, wax, clay or wire, to the monumental – the latter often constructed in welded steel.
Alongside developing her own work exploring themes, ideas, and materials, Marjan has responded to and developed work for public spaces. Her pieces can be found in Hong Kong, The Caribbean, London, Greater Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Thyme, and in green spaces in Yorkshire and many Lancashire locations.
Since 1996 Marjan has regularly exhibited in Amsterdam and in London; the latter mainly at Curwen Gallery in Fitzrovia. Her work is also regularly included in the Chelsea Flower show, and sold by Sotheby’s.
Marjan has contributed to several major touring exhibitions. The first, Chanticleer, an exhibition of prints and sculptures by Adrienne Craddock and Marjan Wouda - which was inspired by Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale - toured to 15 venues around the UK, Holland and Ireland. The second collaborative project, The Mare’s Tale, was initiated and co-ordinated by the artist, and comprised prints, sculptures, drawings, paintings and animation inspired by traditional nursery rhymes from around the world. Launched in 2000, it toured to 19 venues around the UK and in Ireland and the Netherlands. A more recent project, supported by Arts Council England and entitled “the King of the Cats”, has toured venues in Lancashire. Working with storyteller Jacqueline Harris she made a production of peepboxes and projected imagery entitled “in Skriker’s Footsteps”, which she took to the Edinburgh Fringe and to the Dingle festival in Ireland.
In 2017 Marjan embarked on a new, joyful collaboration with two theatre makers as the “Beggars Belief Collective”. As theatre company-in-residence at Darwen Library Theatre, they are supported by the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and by Arts Council England.
“Ultimately, the most powerful aspect of her art is its ability to engage each viewer on a personal imaginative and emotional journey through sympathetic identification with the creature depicted. If all this gets too serious, then her maddening dogs, whether playing dead, dancing, or doing a ‘head stand’ surely liberate the mischievous child in us all. Such potential for identification shows us an artist who is no mere animalier but one for whom the subject of animals allows for the exploration of the human predicament.”
Mary Sara, Art Critic
Marjan Wouda lives and works in Pennine Lancashire, and is the mother of 3.