Interview Urban Arts Magazine
While you had a career as a soccer player, where does your passion for graffiti come from?
My interest in graffiti developed in my early teens. I have always been interested in letters and when I traveled to the training ground I was drawn to throw-ups and tags. As a professional soccer player I lived a life within the public eye which didn’t come natural to me. I needed a way to escape all the constraints and rules I had to follow as a football player. Graffiti brought me anonymity and a way to express myself without restrictions. When hitting the streets, I felt free. I also got hooked to the adrenaline rush that I experienced when making an illegal piece.
In a way graffiti was also my salvation when I went through a difficult period in my life due to a very bad knee injury. This injury ultimately forced me to quit my soccer career. During that time I needed an outlet to release tension and bring back the joy in my life. I started drawing and sketching; this became the birth of my artistic career.
How did you find your style?
I believe that the only way to find your style, is by many hours of experimenting. It took me nearly a decade of sketching, drawing and studying letters and shapes before I developed a particular style. And even to date I keep developing and mastering my style and technique. This slow but steady progress is displayed in the book First 20 years.
Your work is still based on the letter, but with a lot of evolution. What were the main stages?
Letters indeed remain the basis of my work from which everything originates. Each letter has an infinite number of elements that I can build on. These elements take on a life of their own, as it were. The letters D O E and S have become my support and my identity. This keeps my work recognizable, even though I work with different media.
In 2006 you see a turning point in my work. Looking back now, that was when I started to fully understand letters, their composition, the connections and balance between them. In my view, a letter is perfect if it has a certain swing or flow. Even if a letter is torn in half, the shape and flow must still be right.
Your research also focuses on colors. How do you choose them? What do they represent for you and what do they bring to your work?
The choice of colors comes natural to me. Nature itself inspires me enormously, last week for example I spent a week in a cabin in the woods. This boosts my inspiration. But I can also be inspired by a carefully designed dish by a chef.
Color can add something to your work, finish it off. By applying color you can, for example, add strength to the shapes. But the basis has to be right, otherwise it can be detrimental. Ultimately, color is tied to the taste of the observer, but as an artist you can apply color in such a way that it is, as it were, easy to process for the viewer’s eye. I always apply different shades of a color to create a transition between different colors.
In the same way, your work integrates volumes, 3D effects, collages. Is it to feed your pictorial research that you multiply techniques? Did this impose itself on you or is it a deliberate choice? And why?
I do not fully understand this question, but I elaborate a bit more on the evolution of my techniques.
I have always been inspired by the effects of light and shadow to create a sense of depth in my work and make it more tangible. Primarily, each work I make inspires the next so each piece is an evident succession of the one before. This is how I train myself and develop my skills. Slowly but precisely my work evolved from murals and canvasses to 3D-art. My sculptures, for example, are a natural continuation of the use of cement to prepare the surface of my murals. This inspired me to take pieces from old murals and cast them in a new form. The collages are also a continuation of my style and technique in terms of the level of detail, composition and the game of lights and shadows.
For you, is this constant research of materials important?
I am keen on leaving something tangible behind in this world, in this lifetime. This is the driving force behind my constant search for new ways to express art. Material doesn’t matter that much to me. I visualize what I want to create and then aim to work towards that image. It does not really matter which material or which technique I use for this. Ultimately I´d like to express myself without boundaries and find balance by exploring different art forms and using various media. By using many different materials and techniques I keep challenging myself and it´s how I continue to learn.
Is there an interaction between your work in the studio and on the streets?
Working on location is an extension of my studio work. The level of detail must be the same whether working in the studio or making a mural. The finishing must also be of a similar high standard. In the studio I can experiment more and I allow myself to fail. If I work on site a piece must be right in one go. That is why I always prepare every mural or live performance thoroughly. The other way around I get inspired by traveling and the interaction with the public, this new input I bring with me to the studio.
What inspires you to create your universe?
I want to leave something tangible in this world, as a kind of proof of my existence. This urge stems from my time as a soccer player I think. As a professional player you are only as good as your last game. In my work I have the mindset that every artpiece could be my last. I put all my passion into every piece and everything has to be right. On the other hand, this mindset can hold me back because I’m not able to rush anything because of it, while there is sometimes limited time to create work for a show. My father always used to say in relation to soccer: quality always wins. I stick to that.
What can or should we “read” in your works?
My work is a pure expression of the inspiration I have at the time. My art does not tell a story in that sense. What I want to convey with my work is strength and positivity through the use of shapes and colors. People themselves often see images in certain shapes. I like that because it means that the piece appeals to them.
What are your projects?
There are a few shows coming up but a lot is still uncertain because of the pandemic. Mostly, I work in my home studio, further mastering my style and perfecting my collages that I started making during the first lockdown. I am preparing for an exhibition in Paris’ Molitor that will hopefully take place as soon as covid-restrictions allow it. It has been very fruitful to take a step back from the usual everyday rush and let creativity flow freely. Although I hope the world opens up soon, the past year has taught me to create more peace and balance. This is a lesson I will take with me.
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