Amok Island on painting for yourself, working large scale and creating art in Perth.
“When FORM asked me if I was interested in painting the silos, I realised this was a big project and it scared me a little bit. Because of the scale this would automatically be one of the bigger things I would do in my career. Also for the people in the area the impact would be enormous. So there was a lot of pressure to do something I would be proud of, and that other people would like as well.
“The Ravensthorpe area is known for its wildflowers, so that was a good fit since I had been exploring native plants in my work lately. I have had some ideas, multiple species of flowers, a pattern, but I felt I should choose one iconic species to make the biggest impact and strongest message. But if I feature just one species on all six sides of the silo’s there is a chance it would become boring. After some thinking I decided to choose one species of Banksia in different stages of bloom. This idea also added a story to the work, making the work show the life cycle of the plant , connecting it to the seasons and farming processes. I added a few animals that pollinate the species as well to make the design a bit more dynamic. The shape was different than all other murals I have painted; round. This creates a very different look to the artwork, from which ever angle you look you can not see a large part of the artwork.”
Can you walk us through the process you went through to create this mural?
“I ended up sketching, doing computer designs and printing them on A4 paper, bending the paper in circles to create the silo structure, to get a feel for the design when it is round. I put them on my desk and look at them from different angles. I also had to make sure that the tools I normally use for my walls, like a level and string for circles, would still work, when used on a curved surface. I was lucky that the silos had large welding lines, where the steel plates were attached to each other. These seam lines made a brick wall-like pattern, three bricks wide and eight bricks high. I used these lines in my digital mock-up to be able to know where I was, and to make sure the placement was right. So I would count the lines and look at my design to transfer the design onto the wall. I would start on every silo with the branches of the Banksia first, and go from there. Tools I used to sketch up were a level, and string for circles, rollers to fill in the shapes and brush for the outlines.”
Fill us in on your practice in general terms ?
“Drawing has always been in my interest, at home I would be drawing a lot. My parents have always supported my interest in drawing and art. My parents were not really fan of battery operated toys, TV, or computer games, they liked Lego and being creative and being in nature more as activities. Sometimes I think that might have helped as well. In 1996 when I was around 12 a friend at school introduced me to graffiti, which was a good match for me at the time, drawing, painting and adventure! After about 10 years of painting walls around Amsterdam I started to become interested in painting other things than letter-forms, and I started experimenting with different ideas and subjects. This gradually led me to doing what I do now.”
Who and what are your inspiration and influences?
“I enjoy Aryz, Roids, Pantone, Satone, Delta, Sawe, Horfee, Etam crew, Os Gemeos. Also I like to look at hand painted lettering, old printing techniques, scientific drawings, species identification posters. But I think it is a good thing to focus on yourself and not look at other artists too much. I get a lot of inspiration from my hobbies, travelling, nature, (underwater) photography, cooking. To me it is most important that I like my own work. When other people like my work it is very nice, but it does not make a big difference in my opinion about my own work.
Sometimes I catch myself deciding what to paint by thinking ‘what would other people like’. I try to remind myself to think ‘what would I think is good’. This way of thinking has helped me a lot.”
Where else have you worked in the world?
“I have been very lucky travelling quite a bit the last years, I counted over 20 different countries that I have painted in including: The Netherlands, France, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, USA, Japan, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Palau, South Korea, Taiwan.”
Where do you want to take your practice in the future (literally and artistically)?
“I am trying to do work that I am happy with and that excites myself, the last years that has gone from marine animals to plants and wildflowers. In the meantime I have been doing my own screen prints and a little bit of experimenting with sculpture. Painting landscapes has been something that I have been working on in the background for the last 6 years, but I find it very hard to be happy with what comes out. It is something that I feel a big potential of, but for me it is still hard to produce work that I think is good enough. At the moment I am working for an all landscapes exhibition. I’m excited about it and am looking forward to showing it. I still have a lot of ideas that I want to try, and I hope that over time new ideas will keep coming up to keep my work interesting to myself. It is hard to say where it will lead, definitely more painting on canvas and large scale murals for some more time. Then maybe some thing new, maybe sculptures?”
How is it different living and creating art in Perth versus Amsterdam where you are from originally?
“In Perth I managed to build a full-time career on my art but in Amsterdam I had a regular job and did art on the side with a paid job here and there.
I get the feeling that Perth is a good place to be now, ‘street art’ is very popular and there seems to be a lot of work.
Many good Perth artists move over east or to another country, which makes Perth a good place to get started I think.”
What struck you most about the Ravensthorpe project/community? What where the best, worst and most surprising aspects of the place for you?
“The response has been very positive, people were coming by for a chat, taking photos. It was fun as well to live for a month in a small town and to see what life is like in Ravensthorpe/rural Australia.”
If you could tell us a story about PUBLIC Art in Ravensthorpe or Six Stages of Banksia baxteri, what would it be?
“We had a lot of difficult weather in the four weeks of painting; most days you would have wind, rain, sun, basically every type of weather in one day. After a few times getting caught by a shower, we started to use the curved shape of the wall in our advantage by painting on the sheltered side if it rained. We ended up painting many days on the sheltered side of the silo, while it rained all day. Same with very windy days. In the end we only missed two half days because the rain would be too heavy and would come down the silo even on the sheltered side. ”
What aspects of the place or the process had the most impact on your work?
“The design was mostly done before I came to Ravensthorpe, but it helped that the painting went so slow. Every morning at breakfast I had time to review what we were going to do that day, and I could fine tune colours, shapes, composition etc. The fact that the painting took so long influenced the artwork in a good way, it felt like I could steer the process very slow and carefully. Like driving a car very slow, you have less chance to crash into something. FORM’s Production Manager Sean Byford assisted me with painting the silos, without his help it would have taken me twice as long, for sure. So thank you Sean for your hard work!”