In The Dutch Mountains, 2022

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

In The Dutch Mountains is a series of paintings depicting images of Dutch landscapes, that were generated by artificial intelligence. The concept for this series was inspired by the early Vincent van Gogh painting titled “The Flower Beds in Holland”. The painting by Van Gogh 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 the 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 wanted to create something that is both hyper personal as it is universal. Something that is both authentic as it is artificial. I sought to convey the paradoxical experience described above by turning it inside out: I wanted to explore the craftsmanship of painting as a form of mass production and the over-consumed, touristic landscape as an unexplored environment of which only one exists. In order to do so, I trained artificial intelligence to generate a unique, one-of-a-kind interpretation of a flower field, based on a database of open source image libraries depicting existing flower fields.These interpretations were then translated into oil paintings by a craftsman who is specialised in the large-scale (re)production of images and master paintings.

This series of paintings inevitably refers to the rich history of landscape painting and the role the Dutch landscape has played in it. And so not only does this series question the notion of authenticity, it also examines the potential of contemporary landscape painting.

These paintings were shown at Modern Animals Gallery in Zurich and during the 2022 edition of Unfair at Gashouder in Amsterdam.

With many thanks to Boris Smeenk, Shui Yún Jian, Robin Koolwijk, Mondriaan Fund, Christian Herren, Lieneke Hulshof and Johann Horn.

12 small paintings: 20 x 30 x 3 cm
2 large paintings: 120 x 100 x 4 cm