Vol.134_Vincent de Boer
Vincent de Boer
Interviewed by Kim Kieun
From Amsterdam, the Netherlands
In Korea, we have a strong culture of calligraphy that had started from the ancient times and has been transmitted from generation to generation. Nowadays, new ways of using calligraphy appeared; it is actually a new, transgressive phenomenon in Asia. I am aware of the traditional hand paint writing cultures in Europe and America and it is still very common to use it in everyday life, for private or public purposes. I wonder how you started this type of work.
It never really felt like it started at some point, it was just going on already. I think that it has something to do with the fact that I have been drawing since a very young age. Even then, I already did little poster assignments for the local youth centre, which gave me a certain work vibe in those early days. Not very long after, I started being very interested in letters, especially when they were made by hand. Calligraphy was something that I followed and eventually gave more attention when joining the art school. There was not a special calligraphy course in the art school, but hanging out with a lot of likeminded people certainly helped enlarging the enthusiasm. I refer here to the interest in typography and type design. After finishing the art school, me and two good friends that also graduated from the graphic design department started a graphic design studio focused on experimental typography, working a lot by hand. Four years later I left and started my solo artist practice. The calligraphic experiments were going on steadily, so it felt as a very logical continuation, as I had more time to focus on my personal approach. At the moment, I don’t have a lot of commissions on purpose, I prefer to work autonomous, although the balance between those two can be quite exciting and keeps me sharp.
Your work has been evolving in many directions over the last years, experimenting not only with calligraphy, but also with drawing. How do you get your inspiration?
I “experience” inspiration in a funny way, and often unexpected. When I’m drawing or thinking about letter shapes, I usually don’t get my inspiration from letters; but when I’m drawing or painting (abstract) images, I often think of letters. I don’t really consider that inspiration comes to one, I think it is always there. It is up to us to see or experience it. I have a new atelier and it is in the forest. The bike ride is about half an hour and this has become a very important part of the day. In the first few months, I expected my brain to ease out while biking and let ideas grow, but it didn’t happen. Now that I don’t “try” it anymore, it works. What inspires me the most at the moment is the brush itself. The way it goes in a direction depending on the certain grip or angle in which I hold it. The many possibilities it contains are great. There are things that the brush can do that I didn’t know a year ago. It gives me a lot of joy to know that more will come, probably… I’m excited for it. Sometimes going to my atelier for a day feels like fishing, I try to be there without any distraction. I surrender to the place and the time that I spend and after a day of “fishing”, I see what the catch is, while the rest I throw back into the water.
Can you explain your technique of writing? From what I reckon, you use flat and wide brushes.
Because I am left handed, I have always been in need for special solutions of writing. As you might know, left handed people make smudges with their hands if the ink is still wet. There are multiple techniques in order to avoid this problem. One very simple solution seems to be working with very little ink. The possibilities and textures that come along are congruent to my art practice. As I said earlier: it feels like there are so much more possibilities to explore, that I feel excited about continuing. The more techniques I get to know, the more richer my pallet becomes and the better I can express my ideas.
What could be the difference between your calligraphic works and graffiti?
I think the difference is very plain: inside versus outside. While both calligraphy and graffiti can happen at the opposites as well. Moreover, I would describe calligraphy as something that unfolds preferably in peace or silence – the meditative aspects of it are divining. It also follows a certain system, a tradition. Graffiti as manifestation is something that goes hand in hand with the turbulence of the city, the rush and the urge to go against the current, the system. But I also see similarities between the two media. What I find most attractive about graffiti is that the act of writing is performed under pressure, there’s a different time limit for each different place. In my calligraphic works there are similar limits: some ways of writing need a lot of time, some are going way better when executed with high tempo. In most cases, writing with one type of energy goes best. That is finishing in one go, even if it means that you need a working session of 12 hours straight. It also means that you have to feel when it’s better to stop and try to continue another day
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