What does the ideal studio look like? How much time does an artist spend in his studio? Is it a sacred place? In the series 'The Artist’s Studio' this week: Vincent de Boer, whose work can be seen at gallery Franzis Engels until August 31, in the group show 'On Demand'.
Do you visit your studio every day?
I’d love to! It is a fantastic place: self-built workshops in an old aircraft hangar on a former military base in the forest. 'Studio' doesn’t quite capture it, it is more like a covered artists' village. I prefer to be there non-stop, but it's good not to go on the weekend. Rhythm is very important to me and that's why I'm always really excited to go back to the studio on Monday morning.
What time do you leave for your studio, and how: on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car?
As soon as possible after getting up. Before I get into other things or thoughts – that's very important to me. Somewhere between eight thirty and nine thirty I get on my racing bike. It is half an hour to forty minutes by bike from Utrecht to the forest (with a headwind).
Studio in Japan, 2019
Do you hold on to certain rituals in your studio? Music or silence?
There are many rituals. 'Phone-less day' is high on the list. I do that once or twice a week, and it is very good for concentration. I try to break through and/or change most rituals every so often, so I find out what works best. It starts with opening the immense front doors, eight meters high and powered by a motor. Then: stretch, change, meditate, make coffee. Preferably do not touch a computer for the first drawing. I prefer to see the mailbox and associated to dos after my main priority: drawing/painting.
Another ritual is cooking with my fellow artists. We have lunch together and always make a big meal of it. The bond with them is strong and we help each other with everything. We are a well-oiled machine together; not only cooking with the food, but also throughout the rest of the day.
At the end of the afternoon I often walk or cycle through the forest. When I hear a buzzard or hawk from the studio, I almost never skip going outside and have a look. Especially when there are few people in the forest, they sometimes come very close.
Before I go home, I also try to sit still, outside, before I get on my bike. That is a really important ritual, then you close the work mentally and physically.
Music: sometimes in the background and sometimes extremely loud so that it vibrates right through you. Really only instrumental, no voices, no lyrics. That's distracting for me. Generally quite repetitive music, dub, ambient or soundscapes. Deep music works very well for my concentration. In the spring and summer, when it’s warm enough to open the doors, in the mornings I prefer to listen to the wind and the birds in the forest, provided it is quiet enough in terms of machines in the rest of the hangar.
How important is light to you?
Very important, mainly for my mood. From a practical point of view, when working with black ink, the colour of the light is not very important. My front studio has huge windows and a wide view, which is very nice, but after a few years I started to desire just the opposite: an enclosed space without large windows and 'looking in'. The rear studio, which I have only had for a year, meets that need and has daylight lamps. The disconnection with the outside world is very pleasant, as if time stands still there.
What does your work process look like? Do you work everywhere and all the time or does work only commence the moment you enter your studio?
When I am in the middle of a project or new series of works, I am completely occupied by the work; then, out of enthusiasm, I am busy with it all the time. Thoughts about my work I basically take with me everywhere, although I try to train myself to do it less. Otherwise, work could manically control my whole life.
Moreover, it always works very well when I've been out for a while, then I often have a sharper view. This also fits with an insight that is increasingly confirmed: if you force something, it will not work, or at least: the work will not be good. A few years ago, I made a series of works with this theme in which I made certain 'choreographies' for the brush, which I then performed repeatedly. In recent years, I try to think less and less while working, and try to completely surrender to the process, and to be receptive to feelings and energies.
I work in a workstation that emerged from a long-term collaboration with Jonas Wijtenburg: friend, fellow artist and studio neighbour. It is a kind of drawing machine with a long roll of paper in it. Together with the workstation I develop a certain drawing method. Within this I then look for the possibilities and based on the findings, the system can be adjusted again, which can then lead to a new workstation. Working becomes a wonderful surrender the moment I sit down at the workstation. In principle, every place is a potential studio.
How much time do you spend on average per day in your studio?
A working day starts around half past nine and ends around half past seven. It is very important for my work to have a lot of time. While working, I don't want to/can't deal with the idea that I 'have to stop again soon'. A sea of time is a sea of possibilities. That's what I want to feel while at work.
Installation with Jonas Wijtenburg, 2021
Is your studio a sacred place?
It is certainly one of the most important places on earth for me, but in principle everything should be possible there. The term 'sacred' sounds religious and that doesn't seem 'free' enough to me. The rules in the studio are not determined by others and moreover: the rules change all the time. So, it’s not exactly sacred in the religious sense of the word. On the other hand, I have tremendous respect for the place, as if it were some kind of living entity. Sometimes it 'asks' for order and sometimes for chaos. I think it is important that the studio radiates a certain cosiness, regardless of whether I use it: there is a sofa, which I don’t use for weeks on end at times, because I am only working.
It's kind of your own universe, where your own laws apply. In my case of a self-build studio it is also: you make the studio and the studio makes you.
Last year, I did an open studio project with my collective High on Type at the exhibition 'Glashard' of the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. We had a shared studio there for a month, a huge shed that we had set up as a (paint) playground. Vistors could walk right through it while we were working – and playing. All traces we left behind in the studio became the work. The studio as a work of art.
'Glashard together with High on Type' Schiedam, 2021
Do you receive visits there; collectors, curators or fellow artists?
I like being alone in my studio, but at times it can also be a social place. At the weekend with friends for example: turntables, sound system. I regularly invite journalists, as well as students. When buyers and collectors visit, I make an exhibition with the works on display. Franzis (Galerie Franzis Engels) also visits regularly, for practical things such as transport of works, but also just for fun.
What is the most beautiful studio you have ever seen?
I think a studio is so personal that someone else's studio never comes across as ideal. However, I do like to visit other artists' studios and marvel at the beauty of those places. After all, one of the most beautiful things about being an artist are the artists around you. The studio of Robbie Cornelissen for example, but also the studio of Job Wouters and Gijs Frieling are stunningly beautiful, with a view of the water. Last year, I visited Sigrid Calon and was amazed at how beautifully her renovated chapel serves as a studio.
What does the ideal studio look like?
My current studio :) Big enough for all your different activities, optimal concentration and as much freedom as possible. No concierge in the building or rules that apply elsewhere in the world. Everything is possible, if you want. Enough stock of materials, so that you don't suddenly have to go out to get things. A place where you can enjoy being alone, but where you occasionally meet or receive an artist friend for a good conversation. Not too much fun in the neighbourhood, with the associated risk of getting distracted. A nice balance between openness and security. Before, I always thought that my ideal place would be in the city, but I have changed my thoughts on that: a studio in the middle of nature, that's it for me.
Working in the studio, 2022