Erris Huigens | Deconstructie
ERRIS, THANKS FOR ACCEPTING THIS INVITATION TO TALK ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK!
Thank you for your interest in my work and me!
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST?
It is to make anything out of anything, without other people telling you what to do and how to do it. It is to find out, along the way, what it means to make art. To create things, objects, moments that don't need to comply with any rule other than your own set of restrictions.
What is it that you want to be when you want to be an artist is discovering what it takes to be successful in being an artist. Which leads me to wonder what it means to be an artist? Likewise, it is worth questioning what it means to be successful in art, which I believe is a very personal feeling and depends on the artist you aim for and want to become.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK ASPIRE TO?
It is the mental and physical response to my surroundings: paint on abandoned buildings walls and developing my work inside my studio. Therefore, I seek to connect these two facets of my practice: to be in the open field and inside a room. I was born, raised, and still live in The Netherlands; this means Dutch architecture, design, music and art influenced me.
This tradition or heritage is translated into my visual language, which is a nearly functional, pre-planned, and a clear less is more approach to architecture, infrastructure and even society. I strive to arouse a straightforward emotion (in both myself and the viewer) with simple, straightforward and honest gestures. I incorporate strict geometry elements based on a simple vertical, horizontal, diagonal linear grid that I deconstruct and sample repeatedly.
What can be witnessed inside abandoned buildings fascinates me. This enchantment is translated into my body of work by rearranging, combining and placing elements of found material form, shape, space and industrial decay onto canvases, paper and objects and sculptures.
My work in the studio is about interventions on physical objects and materials rather than trying to paint a figurative and symbolic picture. I react to the surface of an object. For this, I use basic low budget industrial tools, most of which can be bought in hardware stores. I am making my first steps into sculpture now, which is quite a new territory to me, but it is a very natural evolution, I guess. The combination and translation of inspiration and the physical outcome seem to reach the point of becoming a full circle, but many directions can still be taken and discovered.
IN BOTH FORMAL AND CONTENT TERMS, WHAT DOES YOUR WORK COMMUNICATE?
My work communicates the dynamic energy derived from minimal structures in expanded fields. These industrial complexes are abandoned and at the mercy of time and nature or internal institutional delimited spaces.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU FELT FRUSTRATION AND WHY?
Frustration is an everyday thing. When writing this answer, I was frustrated by a painting I made that did not work. My mistake was (or sometimes is) to overthink it beforehand. There is a very subtle line between preparing a painting conceptually and practically and creating it without overthinking it too much. An artist should feel harmony and have a positive connection with their work, even if it projects dark emotions. It would be best if you tried to canalize your energy and put it to good use. If it works, good artwork will come out of this.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE FORMAL PROBLEMS IN YOUR WORK?
You learn to solve problems by simply practising and working, gaining experience. Making mistakes means having to solve a problem technically or learning to embrace them, and in that case, understanding that this so-called problem doesn't need problem-solving procedures. I like the idea of discovering and assuming that formal issues help you to look at things from a different perspective.
When doing minimalistic works, searching for a good balance between perfection and deliberate imperfections is vital. It is a problem when the outcome is not perfectly imperfect. In most cases, it means that the work has to be erased or made over again. As soon as I retouch or fix a surface, the process can become over-forced, and the magic and positive energy are lost. Having learned from that process is easier to make something new. Embracing a certain kind of imperfection within a simple approach is also part of problem-solving. Embracing imperfection as part of the process is equal to problem fixing.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Architecture, especially abandoned industrial complexes, is my main inspiration—details of support structures, metal roof structures, concrete floors and walls. I'm fascinated by what these structures do with daylight and vice versa. The fact that these buildings are forgotten makes everything on the inside erode and fall apart.
This is a beautiful process—often described as "beautiful decay": nature slowly takes over again, and time seemed to stand still. However, human-made structures are gradually being demolished thanks to the course of time. The presence of human labour has then disappeared.
I also find inspiration in other things like art history and contemporary art. Inspiring encounters with people can be equally inspiring and provide new insights. Music inspires me. I listen to music all the time. There is certain music that I can see; somehow, I visualize it; I want to incorporate music into my installations, eventually.
WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
I primarily collect and read art books, many of them from my father's library of over 10,000 books. He was a landscape architect and, for his research, he collected books on art, architecture, landscape, plants, and trees. Right now, I don't read literature. There are not enough hours in a day! Over time, hopefully, it will change.
REALITY FAVOURS SYMMETRIES AND ANACHRONISMS. COMPOSITION IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR WORK. WHAT ARE THE FORMAL AND HISTORICAL QUESTIONS YOU THINK ABOUT IN YOUR PRACTICE?
I perceive composition in my work in the sense of placement, weight, space, and balance. Sometimes a room in a gallery or building where I have placed my work is the protagonist, in some intimidating way or simply it is a finished work in itself. So I wonder what I can add or erase here, and it would be at the same time a good work of art.
My choice and use of visuals come down to almost a single line. The paintings can be seen as ghosts from the past, referring to industrial history.
In my research, I look back at the history of art. Certain aspects of the Dutch De Stijl movement, which was at its peak 100 years ago, really speak to me. Their utopian ideas and ideologies on composition, strict limitations on the use of colour and visual elements (erasing decorative elements) give rise to reflections. They firmly believed in this approach to merging art, design, architecture and writing, believing that a new spiritual level could be reached.
One hundred years ago, what they thought and did was radical; I like to wonder if I can still make radical art more than 100 years later today. I react and fuse architecture with art incorporating non-commissioned graffiti's attitude in an even more stripped-down way, intervening in places with an industrial past.
WHAT DO SPACE AND INTERVENTION MEAN TO YOU AND YOUR PRACTICE?
Our world is made up of space and matter, and we have been intervened in it since the beginning of humanity. Humanity is always looking forward to renewal, creating new things and interventions to improve life. I want to take a step back, look back at lost and forgotten places in new ways. Rearrange, recycle, and re-interfere with these forgotten spaces and the things that lie within them. I also want to leave my mark on them as a simple but artistic human intervention by graffiti, like scratches on a wall. I also want to create things using these elements, turn them into art, my way of referring to the beauty of the features of an industrial past.
WHEN I SEE YOUR WORK, BEYOND THINKING ABOUT SITE-SPECIFIC OR INTERVENTIONS, IT REFERS ME TO A CARTOGRAPHIC EXERCISE OF SITUATIONISTIC DÉRIVE. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR ARTISTIC PRACTICE?
Great that you refer to this! Before, I spoke about the need to not "over-think" my interventions and paintings. I have to be inspired by a space, place, building. A moment in the studio, a trip, and a journey should be part of the work. All that is pre-planned are my tools, like the paint I bring with me. My dérive should be a playful exercise, a reaction to a location (even an object itself, inside a place where I feel comfortable) and its surfaces. But a conceptual set of rules and tools is still essential. More and more fun goes into limiting myself even more. Some years ago, I would make sketches and pre-plan what I would paint, but now I like the tools and place to dictate what I will make. Like for instance, I only bring black paint, a limited amount of masking tape (or no tape at all), a pencil (or chalk line) and the strict dimensions of one spirit level (with also a 45-degree diagonal angle on it) and one camera to make a "photo souvenir" (like Daniel Buren). This way, painting feels like playing, and I will have more time to absorb the space and have a nice time, not only producing.
A nice aspect I wanted to mention about making trips is that I often make them with my brother in law, Pascal Bunk, in the relatively remote area of Groningen. He is an artist too. He used to write graffiti and has an excellent sense of spotting locations. For quite some years now, he has played a significant role in my cartographic practice, finding abandoned factories in some fantastic places in this region, where quite some industrial heritage is found.
Quite ironically, it is also an area where there are occasional earthquakes due to the government's relentless hunger for extracting petroleum and gas. Houses and factories are on the verge of collapsing, and the people are in an unequal battle with the Dutch government.
DO YOU LEAVE TRACES? ARE YOU INTERESTED IN PEOPLE FINDING YOUR INTERVENTIONS?
The idea of people stumbling over an intervention is interesting, but deliberately I'm not particularly eager to leave traces. I also like the idea that my interventions are from an anonymous person (for most people) who invades a space and leaves behind only this painted ghost of the past. Once or twice I went back to visit places, I intervened to see the paintings fading; it gives a special feeling—they became part of these places' eroded past.
PHOTOGRAPHY PLAYS AN ESSENTIAL ROLE IN YOUR SITE-SPECIFIC WORK AS A FORM OF REGISTER AND DOCUMENTATION. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
It does play an essential role because the concept of adding something in visually exciting spaces and placement is a crucial part of my work, and photography is very much the final stage of the creative process. My way of searching for the most exciting image is by catching certain energy in it rather than aiming to achieve the sleekest and perfect image.
Looking back at them, they seem like documented unseen exhibitions, existing beyond art galleries and institutions where I have complete artistic freedom. I feel I am orchestrating my own conceptual and visual narrative. Furthermore, I don't fit in the graffiti culture or the so-called street art because they often work within specific sets of visual rules of lettering and style elements. I search for something radical, something mysterious, and at this point, isolation and distance give the work an extra dimension.
My photos' technical quality also depicts my way of working on the border between perfection and imperfection. Not everything is perfectly pre-planned. Sometimes a good photographer is there to document it, sometimes not. Sometimes a space is very dark, and sometimes I only have my iPhone with me. Recently I got a better camera, but it is broken already because of water dripping into it.
I am forced to use my old 2004 camera again while saving up for a new one. The photos are not perfect, but I embrace that this is all part of the moment, the trip, and even my lack of well-trained technics and cutting-edge equipment. As my work as an artist continues, it could mean that I will also try to improve its documentation.
In a world where everyone is seemingly trying to make everything look perfect, I have no problem telling an honest story—especially as it is an honest side of how I work as an artist. I believe it catches the piece's energy and surroundings, like in a low budget but award-winning move score—nothing wrong with a bit of grainy truth!
My way of looking at things, how the photo is taken, and an honest way of showing the moment is more important than making it look perfect. I hope the reader can perceive how I document my work in the images and photos accompanying this interview.
YOU HAVE WORKED WITH DELSIN RECORDS DOING SOME OF THEIR ARTWORKS. CAN YOU RECOMMEND US SOME OF THEIR RECORDS AND SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE ALBUMS?
Their energetic dance floor-oriented output like the "dsr-c series" that DJs have played in clubs like Berghain/Panorama Bar and Tresor—ironically today's seemingly abandoned music venues—is great!
For home and headphones listening, I recommend releases from Claro Intelecto (for instance, "In Vitro" volumes one and two), D5 and CiM. Label boss Marsel van der Wielen also recently released a beautiful solo album under his Peel Seamus moniker. And I love the original releases and reissues by Jochem Peteri, aka Newworldaquarium!
Oh, and Conforce's Kinetic "Image" album has always been a favourite of mine. I would also like to mention that I hope that someday Marsel (and Thijs) will reissue a classic Oldskool Jungle track (a very rare Photek track, for instance).
IF YOU COULD INTERVIEW YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD YOU ASK YOURSELF?
When would you consider yourself a successful artist, Erris?