In The Dutch Mountains, 2022 (paintings)

Recently, I stumbled upon the early Vincent van Gogh painting titled “The Flower Beds in Holland”. It depicts the landscape I grew up in until I was 16 years old. Even though I call this landscape home, recognising it in the painting evoked both a sense of familiarity as alienation in me since these fields and the depictions of them - in their banality as well as distinctiveness - are known around the world and seem to belong to everyone. Cycling through the flower fields as a kid, I’ve witnessed countless of people from all over the world admiring the environment around me. As these fields were mundane to me, I’ve only ever truly started looking at these fields, through the eyes of others, wondering what they were seeing that I could not.

Consumed by mass tourism every year, these fields are witnessed through eyes that seem to reduce the landscape to an idea that is associated with it. Seeking confirmation of that idea, rather than a unique and authentic experience. Contrastingly, in our visual culture, we often view the oil painting as the purest form of authenticity: an original image containing the aura of an exceptional artist. Witnessing these stereotypical fields depicted on a rare oil painting by Van Gogh felt oddly similar to the experience I had as a kid, when I struggled to see the unique beauty of my surroundings.

Through this project, I sought to convey the paradoxical experience described above. I wanted to create something that is both hyper personal as it is universal. Something that is both authentic as it is artificial. I wanted to investigate the craftsmanship of painting as a form of mass production and the over-consumed, touristic landscape as an unexplored environment. In order to do so, I collected thousands of public photographs depicting the existing flower fields of my upbringing, found on the Internet. This collection of photographs formed the database with which I trained artificial intelligence to generate new interpretations of these fields. These interpretations were then translated into oil paintings by a craftsman who is specialised in the large-scale (re)production of images.

With these paintings, I tried to create a body of work that is both authentic as it is a product of mass consumption. Simultaneously, since the depicted landscapes do not exist in reality, these paintings provide an opportunity for me to experience the landscape of my childhood from a new perspective. And so not only do these paintings explore the notion of authenticity and the way we perceive a homogeneously consumed environment, they are also a way of exploring who I am, rather than expressing who I am.

These paintings were part of the 2022 edition of Unfair at Gashouder in Amsterdam. Other participants were Vytautas Kumža, Bin Koh, Emirhakin, Narges Mohammadi, Gilleam Trapenberg, Joep Truijen and Janine van Oene (a.o.).

With many thanks to Boris Smeenk (coding), Shui Yún Jian (painting), Marieke Schuurman (embroidery), Robin Koolwijk (stretching), Mondriaan Fund, Christian Herren, Jeanette Bisschops, Lieneke Hulshof and Juliana Maurer.

Small: 20 x 30 x 3 cm
Large: 110 x 100 x 4 cm

Generative Adversarial Network; oil, acrylic and embroidery on canvas, stretched on wooden chassis.