Quarantine Talks: Joris Graaf

Quarantine Talks: Joris Graaf

by Kyle Dow

May 8, 2020

During the first weeks of quarantine, Artgence took the time to interview select artists and learn more about their thoughts on the reactions from COVID-19 and how they are staying true to their creative process.

One of the selected artists was Joris Graaf. A little about Joris:

In his abstract digital photo-art, self-taught visual artist Joris Graaf (The Hague, 1980) seeks to create tension by forming a synthesis of opposites: melody and noise, rhythm and chaos, darkness and light. His work is inspired by music and contemporary abstract painting. He is fascinated by the emotive power of colour and shape. Joris has a background in earth sciences and worked as a geologist for over a decade before shifting his focus to the arts. Recurring stylistic elements in his work are the use of an altered, minimal but intense colour palette and an interplay of order and confusion, of spontaneity and restraint. Joris’ work is on display in galleries in the Netherlands and Belgium. He was selected for New Dutch Photography Talent 2019 and Fresh Eyes (European photography talent) 2019 by GUP magazine. He works and resides in Wateringen, the Netherlands.

Artist statement:

When seeing my work for the first time, most people believe they’re looking at paintings, but they’re actually looking at digital photographic artworks. To make these images, I start with multiple-exposed photographs of scenes that I either find or build myself with various materials. Then I intuitively process these images in the digital realm to remove, accentuate or alter elements of the composition. Both phases are equally important in the creation of the final image.My work is purely emotional. There are no hidden messages. Just like a song can transport the listener to a different space and time, even if the lyrics are not clear, I want my images to move people, to take them on a trip to a fictional place or situation, to a different relationship with different people. I want to take them to a place where emotions are intense.

We are now far into quarantine due to the unexpected Covid-19 virus.

What have you been doing to stay productive?

Fortunately, my family and I have not been affected too much by the virus, but because my wife is now working from home and the kids are not going to school, I don't have as much time to create. But I'm flexible: I can't go outside as much as I'd like to photograph, so I'll just have to find or create things to photograph inside.

Have you been able to continue creating? Or found any alternative ways to create?

So yes, I've been able to continue creating, just a lot slower than usual. To keep my Instagram feed active, I've become a bit retrospective and I've been reposting some older work. It's very interesting for myself to revisit work that I made a year ago, but it's also fascinating to see how other people react to this work.

Did you go to school to study your craft? Are you self taught?

I'm self taught. I just learn through trial and error.

Do you feel as though you've had your break-through moment?

Breaking through, like "being successful" is a relative thing. For sure, there has been a fairly dramatic increase in the response to my work in the last year or so (and I'm very grateful for that!), but I don't feel like I'm 'there' yet. I still have so much to learn. And if it weren't for my wife, I'd currently be residing under a bridge somewhere.

What was your typical work routine before the quarantine? Strict schedule or very go-with-the-flow?

Very go with the flow. I don't have the option to create my own schedule. I simply have to adapt to the rest of the family and will jump in and use every single free minute that I can find in a day. That's true now but it was also the case before the crisis.

Where do you find inspiration?

Music, contemporary abstract painting and my own emotional state.

Do you have any long term goals with your career?

I'm still learning..I just want to hone my craft and be the best that I can be. And I want to be financially independent.

As a freelance artist, is it a priority to you to spend time working on your branding as a business, i.e. website, social media, digital portfolio?

Absolutely. As an artist, the thing you need most is visibility. I don't just create for myself, I want people to see my work! And nowadays, the best way to be visible is to be active on a variety of online platforms. For me, Instagram is the most important audience and my primary way to show my 'brand' to the world.

What are your feelings about the art world becoming more digital? In the recent pandemic crisis we have seen many virtual exhibitions go up, Artgence has our very own virtual gallery. Do you think that collectors and gallerists will start to switch to a more digital way of viewing art?

I have mixed feelings. I have always preferred the physical over the virtual: seeing a print instead of a digital file, having a physical record in my hand when listening to music, a real book as opposed to an e-book. Nothing can beat the experience of physically exhibiting your work in a gallery and personally interacting with the viewer. But, having said that, in terms of sheer numbers, exhibiting online gives artists a much larger audience! At the moment, we don't really have a choice and digital exhibitions are the norm, but I hope that we'll be able to move to a good mix between virtual and physical once the pandemic has subsided.

How do you think art and the industry can help the world in times of crisis like we are in now?

We're not medical professionals or other specialists who can directly help people in need, but what we can do, I hope, is help people emotionally. The crisis has made me think differently: I've been far too self-centered in the past. Everything was about me and my own problems. I realised that perhaps there is something that I can do to help other people: I've contacted local hospitals to investigate if I can donate some of my work. I just started this, so nothing has happened yet, but I hope I'll soon be able to get some of my work on a hospital wall. If I can get people to see my work, and feel something positive, if I can give them a tiny bit of joy or hope, that would make it all so much more worthwhile.

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