An interview with Brussels-based artist Hidde van Schie for Cheap & Plastique #11. See more of his work on his website here.
The Misunderstood Rainbowbird, 250 x 200 cm, oil, acrylics, spraypaint on canvas, 2013. Collection of HR&O Rotterdam
C & P: Where did you grow up? Did the environment you experienced as a youth influence your decision to become an artist? Or influence your work at all? If so, how?
Hidde: I grow up in Rotterdam in a very colorful neighbourhood. A lot of different people from a lot of different places. That mix you can still see in the colors of my paintings, I think… And I went to a school that was very creative. As a teenager I did theater, played in a noise band, and painted at home.
C & P: You now live in Brussels. Various art papers and art blogs have been claiming Brussels to be the next big thriving arts capital. Do you agree?
Hidde: I never really think about these kind of things… I came to Bruxelles because my girlfriend lived here and we wanted to live together. And for me it was a good change.
C & P: How do you find living as an artist there? Does being in Brussels inspire your work?
Hidde: I lived in Rotterdam for a long time and I was very connected to the art scene there. Here I don’t know so many people yet, so I’m discovering the city. Bruxelles has interesting places and I especially enjoy going to concerts here. I find the city very generous.
C & P: Tell me a little about the process of creating a new work. What inspires you to begin a painting, collage, or piece of music? Do you begin sketching your ideas with a drawing first? Do you ever work out a composition on a computer before you begin a painting?
Hidde: I always work on more than one thing at the same time, to attempt to avoid the moment of a new beginning. I don’t really sketch. When I paint I have an intuition or an idea for some colors and then I figure it out in the painting. Lately I have been doing the paintings in one session and any mistakes or new ideas I take with me to the next painting. With music it’s different, I practice all the time and glue together bits of music, then I work on the lyrics for a long time—on the bus, walking, in the supermarket. For the songs I have to have a clear idea what they are about in order to finish them.
The Bird With The Crystal Eyes, 250 x 200 cm, Oil, acrylics and painting on canvas, 2010. Collection Robert van Oosterom, Rotterdam
C & P: Where does the source material for your eagle and bird works come from? Do you look to magazines, photography, the internet, etc… as a means of inspiration/reference? What led you to making the bird paintings?
Hidde: I had the idea to do an exhibition with only paintings of crying birds in it. A huge exhibtion with just room after room crying birds, as a gesture of great sadness. The imagery comes from bird guides—these naturalistic drawings of birds are the main inspirational imagery.
Sad Yellow Eagle Eye, 230 x 200 cm, Oil, acrylics and spraypaint
on canvas, 2010. Private collection New York
C & P: You tend to paint portraits where the subject seems alienated and/or sad—the bird takes on human characteristics (in a work such as Sad Yellow Eagle Eye). Why are the birds weeping? What are these lovely creatures lamenting?
Hidde: We fill the image of the bird with all kinds of symbolic meaning: power, freedom, peace, wisdom, thievery, birth, ressurection.
I am interested in this kind of imagery, whether it comes from comic, religious, or esoteric imagery. By painting these crying birds I maybe create some personal symbols—a bit of tragi-comedy.
Portrait Of A Painter (thinking about the rainbowman II), 70 x 60 cm,
Oil on canvas, 2013. Collection Robert van Oosterom, Rotterdam
Selfportrait (TV night), 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas, 2013.
C & P: You often paint works in series, such as Looking For Some Logic and Portrait Of A Painter (Thinking About the Rainbowman). The various paintings in each series have a slight shift in color palette and/or have patterns slightly altered from work to work. Do you work on paintings in these series concurrently or succeeding one another?
Hidde: When I find something that interests me, like the portraits, I try it more than once—to find the best one maybe. I make one after the other, in short periods of time. The bird theme has come back over the past years.
C & P: Can you speak a bit about the cross-pollination of imagery from the realm of music to that of visual art and how aspects from both these creative spheres influence one another in your work?
I notice that some of your songs share titles with some of your exhibitions.
Did one iteration of the title inspire, influence, or give rise to the other?
Hidde: They influence each other very much. Painting has taught me to learn to appreciate mistakes and that the process of creating will take you to different places. Music, and especially performing, has taught me to rely more on the spontaneous energy of the moment. The songwriting, and especially lyric writing, has been a good exercise in simplicity and leaving things out.
Looking For Some Logic (green), 70 x 60 cm, Oil on canvas, 2013.
Collection Robert van Oosterom, Rotterdam
C & P: Similarly, motifs associated with music and recording tend to reappear in your visual work, such as the instruments which make up some of the sculptures or the squiggly lines in your paintings that resemble curled up audio cords ‘connecting’ various elements of the composition.
Hidde: My handwriting in painting is quite distinct. Collage and sculpture are ways to take some distance from that—to work more with found material. For me it’s interesting that the aesthetic of images from magazines all reveal different moral values, for example, images from Playboy vs. a magazine about fishing are quite different. In a collage I can play these kind of images against each other. Also the function of objects, like a microphone stand, can be undertood in a poetic way: to be heard. With the sculptures I play with these connotations.
C & P: Again, I am curious about how these two practices influence one another in your work and if you find it possible to address similar ideas in both song and visual art or whether some ideas are expressed better in one medium as opposed to the other.
Hidde: I’m interested in leaking traditions and ideas from one medium to the other—Can a painting have a chorus, for instance, I try to work with topics that interest me in painting and in music at the same time. That is why similar themes come up in the paintings and in the lyrics to the songs.
Looking For Some Logic, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas, 2013.
Private collection Amsterdam
C & P: Similar shapes, such as the squiggly line (that might suggest intestines, some sort of connector), cell formations, nets, lightning patterns, and dripping paint, reappear throughout your work. Do you want the viewer to build a library of symbols which should be read from painting to painting, series to series? Is your aim to create a narrative between the works by using repeating patterns over multiple canvasses?
Hidde: It’s not really that strategic, but if that is what happens I guess all the works together starts to make sense. In painting ideas are expressed very differently than in a song. A good idea for a painting is usually a bad idea for a painting. For me a painting needs to grow during the process of making it, like in the new series of head paintings. I don’t really know what it means but I feel there is something important there—that’s why I keep making them.
C & P: It seems that in the abstract works, such as Looking For Some Logic, the cell patterns and squiggly lines, which overlap colorful blobs and upside down dripping paint, are trying to come together to form something, perhaps figures—similar to those that exist in other paintings. A work like You Wild Eyed Butterfly, You Sleepy Flowerhead, if looked at quickly, might look completely abstract, but when looked at long enough, in another way, one can see a bird emerging from the chaos of the background. When you begin a painting do you know if it will be a completely abstract work or are you unsure how a work will turn out until it is finished? Does a painting end up ‘non-representational’ because nothing emerges/takes shape during the painting process?
Hidde: I guess that is how it works. I start to paint and sometimes a first idea fails and it becomes a big mess but then it takes a sudden turn and finds some logic of it’s own.
Argus (or how I thought I was paying attention), 190 x 170 cm,
Oil, acrylics and spraypaint on canvas, 2012.
C & P: Eyes are very prominent in your work. The eyes of the birds are all very emotive, most often filled with tears. You also paint Argus, Argus (Or How I Thought I Was Paying Attention), the giant from Greek mythology with 100 eyes, and your painting Argus II (The Eye of the Peacock Feather), also references the Greek myth about the preservation of Argus’ 100 eyes in a peacock’s tail (by Hera the Greek goddess). What draws you to this particular mythology—the idea of the all-seeing-eye, the ultimate failure of Argus to be all-seeing, or Greek mythology itself?
Hidde: Well Argus is defeated by Hermes, who plays for him on the flute and the music puts him to sleep. Eyes come back in my work because I’m interested that you can read a painting with your eyes. You can understand it by looking. It is an experience that doesn’t nessecarily seeks explanation in words. As a spectator you often look for an explanation but for me it’s more about just looking. But I like to mess with these expectations.
C & P: Because it is difficult for me to see the texture and thickness of the painted surface of your works (just by looking at the photographs of the paintings on screen) please describe the physical surface of your paintings. Do you paint mainly with oil paint? It seems that some of your older paintings combine oil, acrylic, and spraypaint.
Hidde: I start with an underlayer in acrylic. Quite arbitrary dripping and splashing. This way I have an atmosphere and some direction.
Than I finish with oil and sometimes some spraypaint. To get the effect of mixing the colors in a particular way I paint a light color into a dark color, this has to be done quickly when the paint is wet. So I paint the paintings quite fast. Usually within a day. The paint is not that thick.
The Revenge Of The Electric Child, 190 x 170 cm.
Oil, acrylics and spraypaint on canvas, 2011.
C & P: Much of your painting work is very colorful, painted in candy colored hues, almost psychedelic/trippy at times. Have your paintings always been so colorful? Are you influenced by lowbrow artwork from the 70s like blacklight band posters, psychedlic comics, candlewax drip artwork?
Hidde: I look at a lot of different things for inspiration. I think my generation is quite easy with mixing all these different influences.
Not in an ironic way, like the postmodern, but more from a perspective of things that are useful. What inspires me from the band posters is the madness, the freedom. When you can draw, you can draw a story and make anything happen. You don’t have to ask permission from anybody to make your story as dirty, sexy or crazy as you want.
C & P: Many artists that have been featured in Cheap & Plastique also make music or are affiliated with musicians… Could you describe the music that you make? Does your music influence your visual artwork? And are you influenced by other’s music when creating your visual art?
Hidde: Musically I like to taste a lot of different things: from the Mars Volta to Prince, to Bonnie Prince Billy to Thelonius Monk.
I like Deerhoof and their co-operation with Martha Colburn or that video of Allison Schulnick with music by Grizzly Bear.
I love Daniel Rossen’s solo-album.
C & P: Which artists inspire you today? Which artists would you cite as influences? Are there any painters that you are especially drawn to?
Hidde: I love the paintings of Albert Oehlen, so full of complex madness, they are
fuzzy but always work out. I love Eduardo Arroyo, I am looking a lot at his work again.
Rain, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas, 2013. Collection family Biesta,
C & P: What projects are you working on currently?
Hidde: I’m working on a new album together with a another composer, drummer Arend Niks. The album is called Offshore and tries to express something about the current economic situation. The Offshore account is a sort of new El Dorado…
I’m also working on a big light sculpture for a festival in Bruxelles and I have two solo painting exhibitions coming up.
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
Hidde: When I started working I had different jobs, I worked as a cook in a Belgian restaurant, and I worked as a baker. Now I don’t think about it so much what I would do—I hope to continue to do what I do now.
Softfocus Watercolor Bird, 230 x 200 cm, Oil, acrylics and
spraypaint on canvas, 2012. Private collection Rotterdam.