Fall From Grace, 2011
120 x 154 cm, acrylic on MDF
120 x 154 cm, acrylic on MDF
What are you working on in your studio right now?
I’m working on new paintings for two upcoming solo exhibitions starting in June. They run almost simultanuously, both in the city of Tilburg. One show is in the beautiful Museum De Pont, the other one in Luycks Gallery. Combined with the exhibitions a book about my work will be presented, entitled ‘Diver’s Eye’. Creating that monograph also takes up a lot of my time at the moment, in fact even most of my time.
Can you describe your working routine?
I don’t have a fixed working routine. Different periods ask for a different focus and that’s allright. I can be very focused on painting and drawing for periods of time and at other times I’m working on other things like teaching art, doing work for two advisory committees I am a member of, but also other stuff like preparing panels to paint on, making frames, updating website and so on. So now making a book in collaboration with the publisher distracts me a bit from painting. It’s important to me that all of these activities are connected to art.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio space is the first floor of a former small engine factory. It is divided into three parts because three artists used to work here. Now I’m on my own. There are windows on both sides: on one side I look on the roof of an old big industrial space, on the other side is a lot of greenery and some big trees, very near. A museum director once visited me in the studio to prepare an opening speech for an upcoming exhibition. In the speech he mentioned the contrast of the two views in my studio, and he suggested that this must have inspired me in the work dealing with the polarity culture/nature. I didn’t think that he was right about that at the time, but now I think there was more truth in it than I realized then. Although I have never been an artist who depicts directly what he sees.
Dub, 1,2 & 3, 2011,120 x 154 cm,
acrylic, graphite, charcoal on MDF
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
I make my paintings on wood panels. They used to be plywood or masonite, now I prefer MDF boards. The hardness of the surface suits me well. By using tape I can create hard edges,and this is combined with applying highly diluted acrylic paint. Therefore the painting panel is always placed horizontally on the floor or on a table whenever I do the actual painting. Each painting has its own process of creation. Sometimes I make a painting or a series of paintings, based on a concept, for instance in a recent three-part series, where the first layer of each of the works is a big letter in pencil lines, and the combined letters make up the word DUB. In other paintings there is a more gestural approach. But always my aim is to somehow connect the more rational or intellectual part of creating an artwork to the pure joy of working with paint, to an intuitive and only partly controllable way of working.
I don’t prepare my paintings by making sketches. But I do sketch on the paintings themselves by adding and shifting bits of paper in different colors and shapes. I do this to find out what the next step has to be, working towards a composition that is complex and rich because of its contradictions, but that is also convincing and clear. This means that sometimes it takes a lot of time to develop and finish my paintings.
Next to painting I make works on paper, lately in pretty small sizes. Their creation goes much faster. I call these SWOPs (Small Works On Paper). This is an ongoing series and I work on them in periods, as mentioned earlier. In these works I often involve prints based on photographs. I always carry my camera and I take a lot pictures wherever I am. Photos of things that catch my eye and surprise me, of interesting compositions and combinations of elements that look promising. But these photos are just material; I rework them on the computer to create images less recognizable and with a drawing-like suggestive quality. Then I print them and use them as a starting point to create new works by adding one or more elements or layers of paint.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
The thing that gives me most trouble resolving is in fact the essence of the work: how to transform a number of visual ingredients into a meaningful image. And there is not a recipe for that. In the beginning it’s just trial and error, I’m moving things around and most of the time nothing happens, but I’m always looking for the moment that the lines, forms and stains come alive and in their combination start talking to me: ‘let me be’. It’s a matter of chemistry. This is what I strive for, it has to happen, but I cannot predict when it does and how long it takes.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain
Experimentation with different materials is not an aim in itself. I have always found that limitations are stimulating to me. I love to work with techniques and means as simple as possible. That’s why I use acrylic paint. It enables me to act very quickly once I know what to do, and there are hardly any technical problems to solve. Not a focus on technique, but on trying to take the right actions, making the right choices and by that creating evocative images.
What does the future hold for this work?
I have no idea. But I do hope to keep developing the expressiveness of my work. Hopefully the recognition of it will continue to grow, enabling me to keep creating work and exhibiting it in many interesting places.
122 x 93,5 cm, acrylic on masonite
122 x 93,5 cm, acrylic on masonite
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The last few years the atmosphere in the Netherlands changed dramatically, also in regard to the arts. Although the political situation is shifting again very recently in a somewhat hopeful direction, the importance of the arts has decreased considerably in the public opinion and artist have been pushed to the margins of society. That’s why I want to express the hope that we as artists from everywhere stick together; we have to support each other and keep focusing on the power of art to inspire people in living together in a compassionate, openminded and loving way.
Thanks Valerie for the opportunity to tell about my working practise and express this wish.