Jeroen Hoenselaar is a cool artist who lives in Amsterdam. As a writer, I love his use of words and sentences in the creation of his art www.jeroenhoenselaar.nl. His work is fresh and progressive and he has some dead-on things to say about art and the art world. Check out our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hey Jeroen, You really seem to like letters and words and use them a lot in your work. Why do you do this?
JEROEN: Hello Michael. The first time I began using text in my work was in art school. I wanted to create more depth or humor into the images I was making back then. I think it all goes back to the comics I read when I was young. When people asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said 'a cartoonist'. My drawing skills aren't good enough to have lived that dream, but it has probably always been in the back of my head when making the art I am making right now.
MICHAEL: Interesting. You also have a cool sense of fun and humor.
JEROEN: In art school I found out that the humor I created could be placed under an absurdist style of work. That's why my graduation paper was about Absurdism (which I found in philosophy, the theatre and some photography) and my graduation work was inspired by, in my opinion, absurdist artists as Franz Kafka, Daniil Charms, Samuel Beckett, Les Krims and Duane Michals. They have comparisons in their way of work and their critical stands against governments/regimes or against ignorance. The satire in their work appealed to me. This satire and absurdism can also be found in political cartoons. After my graduation, I began creating more depth in my combinations of text and image. I have always been fascinated with philosophy and science. As science unravels the world in which we are living, it is taking the place of philosophy. Therefore, in my opinion, philosophy and science go hand in hand. So, my next series of work had a strong scientific feel to it. There was still absurdism/humor present in that series, but more in the textual part than the visual. This continued in other series; combining science, philosophy and visual puns.
MICHAEL: And so, what kind of public reaction did you get?
JEROEN: After a while, I found out that people, being visual creatures, often only looked at my images and didn't read the text. It's difficult because image is one brain half and text the other. That meant my goal was not achieved. If I wanted people to fully experience my work, I had to get around the combination text -image and make it only an image. So what I did was literally create sentences and cut every letter out of wood or acrylic glass. Then carefully hung each letter on the ceiling with fish thread and tape and gave that three-dimensional work life through photographing it, making it only an image. This way the beholders of my work could be their human selves and I could still make the combination text-tmage, combining both brain halfs.
MICHAEL: Since your work can be humorous and satirical, are you concerned that maybe that is all people will see? Is there a chance people won't take you seriously as an artist because all they might see is comedy and satire?
JEROEN: When satire and humor are used, the message you want to spread can have a better outcome. It's like stand-up comedy artists; through the use of humor and satire they make their point. People laugh, but afterwards start to wonder 'why was it funny?' Many comedians deal with underlying social or political problems. Those artists pinpoint the problems and through laughter it becomes discussable. To link it with my work, I don't think humor is looked down upon by art viewers. The only danger with humor is that people don't find it funny. Thereby, I'm more about satire, and its function as being critical of society, than that my work is laugh out loud funny. I want people to think out-of-the-box and question even the empirical truths found by science, because, looking at history, a lot of answers that we now take for granted will be disproven with the use of future findings. We can never be a hundred percent sure of anything. There is always a percentage of uncertainty; in that region I make my work.
MICHAEL: So I guess this means you will never paint "pretty pictures"?
JEROEN: The world we live in isn't always a beautiful place. I want to be the early hunter-gatherer who looks behind every tree to make sure that there isn't a big predator behind it that will kill; I want to be the one who is skeptical, maybe even pessimistic and question our present infant stages of development. We are only just beginning to understand the place we are living and if we have too much optimism, it wouldn't be realistic; there is still a lot to learn, and by being critical, the learning process will improve.
MICHAEL: I think it's cool and different the way you use yourself in your work. It's almost as if you're showing us that you're part of some formula or equation. What do you think?
JEROEN: That's an interesting statement. I hadn't looked at it that way. That's the fun thing when you send your work into the world; every other person makes a different interpretation and sometimes you hear interesting ideas of what it might mean. My response could be that it was my intention, but my intention was to make it widely interpretable.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world? How are you doing as an artist? Has it been tough or okay?
JEROEN: Today's art world is for a great deal not about art anymore. The high prices people pay for some art works goes beyond their true value. Art is very hype sensitive right now. Only if you have a Warhol, do you mean something. In that way, the art world is more and more about shallow beliefs and the most important factor, money. Even worse is that through the high prices paid for works, they (buyers, sellers) are telling us what good art is or should be. It isn't about what the artist wants to tell any more, but how hip he or she is. Even museums swerve for it; the artists that are most paid for are prioritized for exhibitions. This is corrupting the art world and turning art into investments and status. My being as an artist is in a development stage right now. My work is growing up and going much more in one direction. The most important thing at this moment is recognition; somebody who sees potential in my work.
MICHAEL: Finally Jeroen, where do you see your work going. How will it evolve? What do you want to do?
JEROEN: When I started sawing letters out of wood and placing them into a confined space, my work became three dimensional. Because of this change, my work got a sculptural feel to it. The use of fish thread and tape makes the sculptures very temporal, hence my photographic perpetuation. The next and logical step is non-transitory sculptures. This is a direction for me where I'm very curious what I will find. The mix of photography and three dimensional is still an interesting thing to investigate, so I probably will not completely say goodbye to photography. I am also trying to deepen the textual part of my work; I've started working on, what possibly could become a novel. This is just in a research phase and will take some time before I'll be satisfied with the result. Actually all I'm doing, and want to do, is expand all the aspects of my work: the text, the image, and the subjects.
MICHAEL: Thanks Jeroen. This has been great.
JEROEN: And thanks to you. Good interview!
Check out Jeroen’s website at www.jeroenhoenselaar.nl.