Interview with Rogier Willems

by Sunday, April 22, 2012
Hello Rogier,
first of all, tell us something about your upcoming work. What are you into at the moment?
After a long period of making large scale canvasses I am now into small works, 50x65cm. Still with oils on canvas, and still painting people, young women mainly. After that I go on working on three large (!) scale triptychs based on the last days of Christ: The Transfiguration, The Last Supper and The Crucifixion. Being a non-believer but very interested in the history of depicting these scenes I placed the stories in a totally different context. I make them more personal, modern, showing people struggling with their relationships. I try to retrieve the human source these stories derive from. Meanwhile I keep producing smal canvasses. Being a portrait painter in origine I am nowadays moving towards a more general way of painting. I mean that the works are more about all people instead of just the one portrayed.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: where is home, and how long have you been a painter?
I live and work in Amsterdam. I have been painting for about 20 years now and finally and slowly making some progress these days, I think. I did not go to a real art school because I think that being an artist needs, besides skills of course, a long breath so you can only tell after 30 years or so if one actually is an artist. Or was one…

Could you tell us some more about your paintings? How would you describe your style?

My stile is very clear, figurative and thin painted. I want my work to speak for itself, it is just like looking at people you see on the street, passing by. They evoke questions. In my ‘religious’ works I explore the way you can tell stories in painting.  I am very fond of Caravaggio so I tend to make dark paintings. These days, I am developing my technique in a more direct way, more ‘impressionistic’ if you want, and what happens? There comes more light in my work! But I’m okay with that.

What artists have influenced you, and how? Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?

Lucian Freud, Balthus and Bacon are very important to me. But also Hugo van der Goes and Dirk Bouts, the flemish masters, are. My inspiration comes exclusively from (observing) people. I am fascinated by their looks and more over by their behavior. that is something I want to express in my works.
How has your work evolved over the years from when you where beginning?
In my early years I painted in a more direct style, with energetic brush strokes en thick layers of paint. And I made a lot of self-portraits then. Technically speaking, it is getting better every day.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Besides being an artist I am an set designer for theatre and I teach kids with behavior difficulties, so I have always been independent, financial speaking. During projects I hire people to help me with public relations.
What upcoming shows, exhibitions, do you have coming up?
From 18-20 May I will exhibit my small works (besides from some bigger works) for the first time in Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 538.
Next year my three large triptychs will be on show in big churches in Holland.

What’s the best part of being a painter?
The freedom. And women like it.
Do you conduct workshops for aspiring painters? 
I teach kids with behavior and learning difficulties, but I do not train them to become artists. Art is just a means, in this classes, helping them to not kill each other and learn to focus and concentrate. It is also very helpful for their self esteem.

The first painter that comes to your mind in a second.

Francis Bacon.

Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.
Greed and lack of humor.

Your idea about social networks.
Its harmless fun checking your friends whereabouts when you’re bored. I use it for publicity reasons mainly.

What’s overrated/underrated today?
overrated: being successful
underrated: being actually very good

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