Dutch-based artist, Wouter Hisschemöller, produces paintings based on collages of street scenes, local environments and photos of daily life in the city. The ‘cutting and pasting’ element to his work abstracts his imagery, creating a certain strangeness that is slightly disorientating.
In his own words
Why are you an artist? Did you ever feel that you had a choice?
Yes, I always felt I had a choice. I think I could have easily not been an artist. For periods of time I’ve been much more interested in music than in visual arts; at other times I was only focused on software programming.
I think if circumstances had only been slightly different, I could have spent my whole life being fully involved in creating and playing music. Or I might just as well have lived a long and happy life being a software developer, inventing new applications and interesting ways to program them.
I like to create things. That’s what these activities have in common. It’s the base of what I like to do.
The rest may well have been circumstances and coincidences. The availability of computers and the rise of the internet drew me to programming; friends in bands and sequencer software drew me to music. Now, I paint. I can see many of the circumstances and coincidences that made me choose art and painting, but in the end the only important thing is that I took up a brush and started to paint.
Also I don’t like the thought of having no choice but to be an artist. There’s much more freedom in the idea that you can be anything you want to.
What inspires you and how does it affect your work?
Paintings by other artists inspire me a lot.
A few years ago, the St. Petersburg Hermitage opened a Dutch branch of the museum, the Hermitage Amsterdam. It’s located almost around the corner from where I live. About the time I started to paint, they had some very beautiful exhibitions: Matisse to Malevich and Impressionist Highlights from the Hermitage. It was also the temporary home for the Van Gogh Museum while it was being renovated.
I used to visit these exhibitions very often, sometimes just for an hour inbetween painting, sometimes for a short while on my way home from getting groceries. I’d revisit and inspect the same paintings time after time until I got to know them very well.
After a few visits, I discovered that ten minutes before closing time the museum would be nearly empty. I often spent those last ten minutes alone in the room with great paintings like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or Cornfield With Crows, or with Matisse’s large painting, The Red Room.
Each time, I would go home full of new ideas and energy to return to the painting I was working on at that moment. It was a start in painting that I still feel inspired by.
What are you currently working on?
I’m about to start a new painting.
That’s always the most exciting time. I’ve no idea what the next painting will be. I browse the internet for photos and scroll through folders of images on my laptop.
Ultimately images will stick in my mind. Sometimes it’s colours, sometimes an atmosphere, an expression on a face or a situation I somehow recognise.
I then use Photoshop to cut, paste and combine photos. I create different versions; add, move or reject layers of image until I end up with a collage that is the design for the new painting.
I’ve always admired the surrealist collages of Max Ernst. He used engravings from books and magazines that were the mass media of his time. Today there are digital cameras everywhere and photos are uploaded and published online in their millions every day. It’s like a vast library of images that’s always available to anyone. A mirror of what the world looks like today. That makes it an amazing source of images to use for an artwork.
How has your practice changed over time?
It changed very much. I started to paint only four years ago.
I studied at art school in the Dutch city of Utrecht and graduated in 1990. After my study, I worked as an artist in shared print studios in Utrecht and later Amsterdam, creating etchings and lithographs.
At the end of the nineties, I became fascinated by the new technologies for web development and the internet. Because I already had an interest in computers and programming, it was easy to find a job and to get involved and be carried away in that rapidly evolving industry.
It was only after ten years or so that an urge to create something visual returned. One day I sat down and drew a little pencil drawing. In the next months, the drawings grew larger; I tried crayon, ink, acrylic paint, and after a year I was on my way painting in oil.
A change that I very much notice today, after my return to an artistic practice, is the huge benefit of online media. In the nineties I worked in my studio, and when an artwork was finished, that was it. The artwork was done. I showed it to some collegues and friends in the following days, but for the world to see it would probably take months, until there was an exhibition.
Today, when an artwork is finished, its private life in the studio ends and its public life online almost immediately starts. I put it on my website, post it on Instagram, Facebook, all the social networks. And people see it, some like it or not, comment on it or send feedback. There is an immediate response and that makes being an artist so much more interesting.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That’s February 2026. Just like today, I’ll look out of the window and hope the winter won’t be too grey and wet.
I’m sure I will still paint. There is so much more to explore, try out and learn in art and painting.
Of course I’d like to see myself being widely appreciated for my paintings and selling lots of them for good prices! But, besides that, I actually try not to answer that question too specifically for myself. Who knows what I would miss if I focus too much on a narrow goal in the future. It’s best to keep the future wide open; to keep an open mind for anything that will come my way, a keen interest in everything that happens in the world around me. I think that is the state of mind that will lead to the best and most interesting art.
All images courtesy of Wouter Hisschemöller | www.hisschemoller.com
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