Last updated on April 20th, 2018 at 03:31 amReading time: 15 minutes
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feeder insider w/ Erwin Olaf [en]
Multidisciplinary Dutch artist Erwin Olaf works in the field of art photography, video installation, and sculpture. He addresses social issues, societal taboos and gender politics through highly stylised, polished depictions, with a meaningful subtext. Olaf has exhibited his works in scores of group shows and has had solo exhibitions at many major museums including the Bilbao Art Centre in Spain, the Modern Art Gallery of Bologna in Italy, the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow, The Hague Museum of Photography and the Rijksmuseum. He also designed the Dutch euro coins that have been in circulation since 2014, both featuring a portrait of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. His recent exhibition, Erwin Olaf et Indochine, at Galerie Rabouan Moussion in Paris, celebrates the 13th album of the band, whose cover he designed, inspired by the work of American artist Henry Darger, featuring thirteen outlandish characters.
In the midst of preparing for the film he is soon directing, A Shinning Flaw, and producing a new project shot in Shanghai, Erwin was kind to answer our questions.
immersive / experimental / nostalgia / unusual
Self Portraits 1985 – 2015
I could do with a bit more… holiday.
I like the smell of… flowers.
Eastern civilizations… tend to be more zen than ours.
Lately, I find myself more and more… thinking about silence.
I get my vegetables from… the supermarket.
Sometimes I write… thank you notes.
A drink I never decline,… well not never, but if you insist.
When travelling… I try to enjoy space as much as I can.
Three movies that inspire me… are movies by Visconti (Death in Venice, Ludwig), Piere Paolo Pasolini and Blow Up (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Cristina Popa: Hello, Erwin, it’s wonderful to have you as a guest on feeder insider series. For the 4th consecutive year, you ran one of the stages at Milkshake Festival Amsterdam. What are the nicest memories you have from Milkshake?
Erwin Olaf: First of all it was great to be part of this Festival that celebrates diversity. One of my favourite moments is when the parade started and all the people that helped me do this event went out all over the festival to ‘demonstrate and celebrate’.
CP: How does your schedule look like? What projects are you currently working on?
Erwin Olaf: Currently I am finishing up my latest project, which I shot in Shanghai. It’s a multifaceted piece of work about the clash of cultures past and present.
Also I am very busy still with the preparation of the movie that I am going to direct (adaptation of a novel by Arthur Japin, In Lucia’s Eyes)
CP: In a previous interview, your advice for young artists is to follow their heart, find a style, maintain it for at least 5 years, and work persistently. When still defining your artistic persona, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Erwin Olaf: To be honest everything in my career has gone organically, meaning it just developed and morphed successfully into what it is today quite naturally.
What I faced sometimes is that people want to put you in a corner/box even though you yourself have long moved on from that. So being labelled.
CP: How are human interactions evolving in a media-driven society? Are you still staying away from social media?
Erwin Olaf: I am not very interested in social media. Some of my work has been inspired by the human interactions evolving from social media. I only use facebook professional and I don’t have an Instagram or twitter account.
Its sometimes akin to verbal and visual diarrhea.
CP: What is specific about Hilversum? Why do you think it became Netherland’s media city?
Erwin Olaf: Most likely its central location, and the beautiful surroundings.
Le Dernier Cri, 2006
CP: Did you go back to the darkroom to make your own prints, as you wanted a few years ago?
Erwin Olaf: Yes. Right now we are still in the early stages of that process, but I have refurbished my darkroom, and have started to handprint silver gelatine prints.
I am very much looking forward to being able timewise to do more printing. Also, I have been producing Carbon prints.
For this old technique I go to Zeeland to print with one of the last people in the Netherlands who understands this process.
Troubled 2016 / Installation shot Galerie Rabouan Moussion, Paris ‘Troubled’ 2017
CP: In your recent projects, you expand your universe through video and sound to engage and immerse the viewer. Which mediums would you like to explore further?
Erwin Olaf: I am very much into incorporating all the different media. For my latest work Shanghai I have moving images, still photography.
The combination of different mediums makes it possible to create a complete Erwin Olaf experience, you can get across the idea of an artist by making use of all the senses.
CP: The design of the Dutch euro coins is a project diverse from your usual work, turned into a manifesto for progress and tolerance. How would you imagine a bitcoin?
Erwin Olaf: I don’t know so much about the bitcoin. For all I know it could be just like the Tulip Craze in the 17th century. I find it difficult to say something sensible about it.
CP: You cite David Bowie as one of your earliest influences. If you were growing up now, which musician would you relate to?
Erwin Olaf: I am not overly into music right now, I don’t have so many idols. I feel like the music industry is so constructed and commercialized that it is very hard to find original people. Also, everything visually seems to have been done already.
CP: Thank you! 😊