BL: I got to know the work of René Daniëls when I was 18 before commencement at the Art Academy. He has always been my favorite Dutch artist. I love his work for its directness and economy in paint. There is a free flow of ideas that doesn't feel like a strategy.
The Hollandse Nieuwe title refers to the first new Dutch herring of the season. Restaurants tend to pay top dollar to get the first barrel. There is a comment or critique about the art world in that painting: the predictability of galleries always looking for new, young and hot marketable work and artists.
Last year I made a contemporary version of that work and then after that this subject of fish swimming evolved into something more personal; the works represent my upbringing and history in The Netherlands, growing up close to the beach, the dunes and the stark landscape of Northern Holland.
BF: Your work touches different techniques; printing, painting, drawing and collage. It is all of it together but at the same time also not. It is very you. Can you tell us something about how a work comes together?”
This is the part where a little adventure or experiment comes in. In the studio I tend to have multiple projects going. I draw, spray paint, make collages and use all kinds of different tape.
I have never wanted to commit to painting. There is that heaviness to it, the art historical weight but also all the codes that come with European painting. It is just not for me. At this moment I just want to make lighthearted works with a certain clarity.
BF: When a work is finished it creates its own world, not a view through the window looking at daily reality. It has something historic, nostalgic and maybe cartoony? Your own reality is very free, where the distinction between figuration and abstraction seems to have disappeared. Does this have to do with the city you live in?
BL: When I moved to L.A. I made dense and black charcoal drawings. The urge to start from scratch was there but at that time I didn't have the tools to make the work yet. Over the years I tried different ways of printing, and I bought an airbrush gun and compressor. All these little experiments have led to composing my work in a different way. This process might occur less fluid than drawing but there is much more liberty and room for coincidences in the current approach.
I am quite positive that L.A. has been informative to all these changes as the city is one colossal hybrid. In the works on canvas I boil things down, it takes time. There is a contemplative nature to that part of the process; every little thing has to find its location and the white of the canvas is the real player.
BL: Hey Bert It is difficult for me to see how your work is made, what kind of paint do you actually use?
BF: During the lockdown I started painting with egg tempera for the first time — first from the tube and later I made the paint myself. It turned out I was able to paint much more detailed with tempera than acrylic. It is more controllable and has an organic matte look. This made me paint more refined. For example, I could not have painted the flies that are sometimes on the canvas in my still lifes with acrylic. The background, the canvas, always helped in my earlier paintings. I’m trying to avoid that in these still lifes, and also tempera doesn't go well with canvas. I paint my still lifes on panels which gives you a smooth, matte surface. The use of tempera on panel is also closer to the technique of classical still lifes.
BL: How does your work relate to classical still lifes from the Middle Ages?