Featured Artist

Wouter Venema

Interview by Floor Kortman, Art by Wouter Venema

We might know October’s Featured Artist Wouter Venema (1985) as the person behind the visuals of Rotterdam based synth-drone act Mike Koldin, but as an artist his work takes many forms. He translates his dark, fragmented way of storytelling from visuals to photography to drawing, graphics and film. With layers of black on black on black, Venema constructs his images by deconstructing his subject, presenting a crystal-like cross section of time, in which past, present and future can happen simultaneously. Wouter’s work will be showcased at Subbacultcha! on several occasions this month, including the Amen Dunes show at OT301, Amsterdam on 3 October. The Amen Dunes showcase marks the third immersive experiential environment curated and produced by Pllant/Marieke van Helden.

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Who are you?

Wouter Venema, 28, artist.

How are you?

I’m okay! I just made three screen-prints during a one week residency at Plaatsmaken in Arnhem.

So, looking through your work I see you don’t use a lot of colour, I take it you’re not a fan?

Actually, it’s not because I’m not a fan, but because I only recently started drawing, and colour hasn’t found its way in my works yet because of practical reasons. Around 2011 I was working on a bigger project called Lighthouse, a short one-shot film of twenty minutes in which the natural light changes without cuts or time-lapses. The production process of this film was quite long because of funding problems and I started drawing to fill the spare time. Before that, I felt drawing was not so much an end product, but rather a tool during the work process. I wanted to focus on exploring different drawing styles and techniques first, and after that start to use colour. Now, after two years of working only in black-and-white, it has become a sort of style. I’m trying to change it a bit by introducing colour though, for the screen-prints I made recently I used colour and I’m really excited to use it more often.

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This month’s theme is de(con)struction, something I really related to in your work. It’s very constructed and built up in layers, but subject-wise it’s about deconstruction. Can you relate to the theme in this way at all?

Yes, I can really relate to this. I try to visualise and understand the experience of time from as many perspectives as possible, so that’s a form of deconstruction. In earlier works I literally deconstructed stories I wrote or found into fragments to create a new story. What I didn’t like about this is that the result was quite distant and impersonal, it was too constructed. Now I relate to this in an intuitive way, so the meaning arises more by itself.

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You work in a lot of disciplines – video, illustration, graphics and so on. Where do you start, and does where you start determine where you’ll end up?

I generally start with one fragment of a text or an image, and most of the time I really don’t know what the end result will be. I try to find new interesting combinations and make it part of a continuous process or understand how this image or piece of text can be related to earlier themes in my work. The main theme of my work is how we experience time, and in particular the idea of simultaneity. This idea can also be seen, for instance, in the film ‘Vertigo’ (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. There is this one camera-shot in which the difference between past and present is no longer distinguishable because an anchor point in the present is missing. You could say past, present and future are captured in one shot. I am really intrigued by this idea and I often use it as a starting point to see whether it is possible to achieve this. Eventually I try to find a medium that best suits a particular idea. But sometimes it just starts with a drawing because I feel like drawing. So it also depends on my mood what the medium will be. If I start to reflect too much on everything it can paralyze me.

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You make visuals for Mike Koldin and this month you’ll also provide the visuals for the Amen Dunes show at OT301. How do you go about making these visuals?

I use a lot of found footage when I do visuals for Mike Koldin. Michiel and Keimpe are improvising using synths and tape loops and I try to find images out of a large archive that fits the sound best or creates an interesting combination. That is quite an intuitive process, almost improvising, or at least the order of images is decided on the spot. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do for the Amen Dunes show yet, but I will not use found footage this time. I will probably try to make a compilation of my earlier films and create a new story out of it.

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As I understand it, next year you’ll be attending the Rijksakademie. Do you know what you want to explore there?

Yes that’s right! I really want to start working with 16mm film. I’m looking for a way to make films in a more tactile way and 16mm film has this handmade quality to it. I want to explore this by developing everything by hand and experiment with this process, but also by painting directly on the filmstrip. Besides that, I’m looking to find different ways to improvise with film as I do with Mike Koldin. And I really want to check out more printmaking methods: etching, woodcut, litho. Other than that, I don’t know. I don’t have a clear plan.

Wouter Venema’s fractured visual narratives will be showcased at the Amen Dunes show at OT301, Amsterdam on 3 October as part of Frames By, our ongoing immersive experiential environments curated and produced by Pllant/Marieke van Helden. With this series, we extend our exploration of talent to the visual realm, merging live musical performances with the visual expressions of local artists. Each month we select a unique Subbacultcha! show and ask a local artist to cloak the evening in their work. Stay tuned for November, announcement coming soon!

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