Debuting is never easy, especially these days. Loes Koomen will not be lacking in energy and positivity. She makes her debut at Galerie Stigter Van Doesburg with Happy Buildings, Sad Trees - 18 works with abrasive colour schemes and elusive shapes about the growing gap between the city and the countryside.
Loes Koomen already had a tremendous track record as a graphic designer. For example, she was responsible for the restyling of Het Parool, the Leeuwarder Courant and Vrij Nederland. Koomen also handled the graphic concept of the Dutch cultural magazine Hollands Diep. Ten years ago, painting started to attract her again. After that, things went fast.
GV: Why did you start painting again?
LK: Actually, I have always kept painting for myself. I went to art school at the age of 17. Having grown up in a sheltered environment, I was as green as grass. To become a visual artist, you must to have a story to tell, and I just didn't have that at that age. That's why I started studying graphic design. As a concept designer I have always had assignments from printed media and cultural institutions.
Ten years ago, painting started to attract me again. I started painting one regular night a week. Almost immediately I noticed that this was what I wanted to do. Two years later, this studio in Loods 6 was thrown into my lap and I increasingly decided to reject design assignments and just go for it. I gave myself a few years to make all possible dredging in order to find out which direction I wanted to go. Four years ago, I found my direction and from that moment on I started painting full-time.
GV: It is often said that your work refers to the 1960s. Gallerist Diana Stigter called your work "soft edge" in line with the hard edge art of that era. Is that something you can agree with?
LK: My work is mainly about themes that concern me. Social issues such as freedom, equality and discrimination. I am completely in the here and now, but those issues also played back in the 1960s. The similarity with the art from that era is that I give my work the same kind of positive energy.
GV: The title of exhibition is Happy Buildings, Sad Trees; what is the exhibition about?
LK: Happy Buildings, Sad Trees is about the gap between the city and the countryside, a theme that has been preoccupying me for a long time. In my opinion, the constant flux of people to the city is not sustainable in the long term. These are complex issues, where clarity is often lacking. By giving my work a positive appearance, I hope that people are more open to complex issues. In my work that translates into abstract forms that originate somewhere. For example, the shapes in the triptych Tracks and Gaps are based on the tracks left by tractor tires. You may of course interpret these any way you wish, but in my work, there aren't any purely aesthetic forms.
GV: What is the most striking development compared to your previous work?
LK: That would be the lack of the colour black. Black used to be a fixture in my paintings. In addition, the compositions have become more complex. I also have the feeling that I have now found my visual language. It is not an end, but something I can elaborate on.
GV: I can imagine you don't just end up with colours like these. Is that right?
LV: I did a lot of colour research to find just the right colours and to see how they interact. I want the colours to do something independently and transmit an enormous energy.
GV: One of the things that stand out in your work is the paint residue. Do you leave it on the canvas on purpose?
LK: They arise during painting and if they add something to the composition, I leave them. A person is not perfect either; I want you to see that imperfection in my work.
GV: Something else, how do you, as a relative outsider, end up with a big name like Stigter Van Doesburg?
LK: We first met at This Art Fair back in 2017. I started talking to David and Diana and we hit it off. In fact, I am a lateral entry. Of course, the standard route is being picked up by a gallery after graduating. Since I had no relationships in the art world, I decided to enlist the help of an agent, Manuela Klerkx, which was the best thing I could do. She mentioned my name last year, which led to a studio visit and to this show.
GV: Are there any advantages to debuting with a solo exhibition at a later age?
LK:Obviously, I was delighted with the offer of a solo exhibition, even more so because it is more obvious to participate in a group show first. The advantage is that I have always kept working to the rhythm I had as a designer. For example, I don't wait for inspiration, but I just put in long hours every day. In addition, many things have already been taken care of in my life, such as a house and a good marriage. So, I can fully focus on painting.
The exhibition Happy Buildings, Sad Trees by Loes Koomen can be seen at Galerie Stigter Van Doesburg from Friday 15 May to Saturday 27 June 2020. Loes Koomen will be present at the opening on May 15 from 3 pm to 6 pm.