I was born and raised in Rotterdam. Even when I was little I felt the strong urge to collect things. Not pins or key hangers, all my friends used to collect, but stones, shelves or objects that had something peculiar about them.

At the time I couldn’t understand why I had this obsession for totally worthless objects.

But now, as a grown-up artist, I finally understand why. As soon as an object takes possession of my thoughts, I will not rest until I recreated it into a work of art. It might take years, or sometimes a day.

 

Of course the city I grew up in has a great part in this deal. I was raised with the sound of piles being rammed in the ground. At first to repair the city after the bombardment in second world war 2 (that took them years, believe me or not), but later because Rotterdam has a strong need to expose herself as the top of the bill  regarding architecture. It sometimes feels like an elderly lady who desperately tries to keep herself in shape and therefore will use all kinds of plastic surgery to stay young and smooth.

Any imperfection has to be cut away. But my question is of course :

Isn’t an imperfection not what makes us original?

Each decade brings us (thus also a city) something new, gives us character and brings some historical value. Why destruct everything for a more spectacular look?

Many of my works are an ironical or serious complaint against this idea. And I try to depict the city's skin. Sometimes she is like a beautiful diamond, but she also can be grey as lead and very rough.

 

Still, there are more ideas that keep me busy. Like the strong need to combine materials. Sometimes materials that on first sight have totally no connection with each other. But I want to put them together like it is the most sensible thing to do. Even if  materials form a contrast.

I always make things out of found objects, they grasp me by their colour or shape. This can be an old brick, or just a piece of paper on which somebody made some notes. The strangest things can inspire me. They call me when I pass by. Or I make photo’s, when they cannot be moved.

Very often I cover the floor of my studio with sheets of drawingpaper and leave them for months. Everybody walks over those sheets, leaving their marks and I keep busy working on them. Finally, after a few months they have the lived nature I'm interested in.

 

A good example of the way I work you can find in “Whatever Happened After Happily Ever After”.  It is totally made of marriage receipts I found in the cellar of the building where I have my studio at this moment.

The building used to be the town hall of Hillegersberg (a district of Rotterdam) since 1920.

Many people married there, because it has a very romantic radiance. It is a very old building, made in 1870. Even I married there in 1990. My career as an artist ended on that radiant day (of course I had no comprehension of that fact than). But when I divorced in 2005, I decided not to mourn any longer and started to develop my work again. It was quite a coincidence of course, that this same building was presented to me as a studio. It will not be forever, but still, it gave me the opportunity to work again and restart my career.

I very much enjoyed making this artwork of a bride with all the receipts, signed by the couples to pay for their matrimony in the 1970’s. The bride might by me, she is standing alone, but with straight shoulders and with pride.

Sometimes life gives you something in return.