Interview Joep Buijs THE 21st Century Amsterdam contemporary-artist

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Joep Buijs an exceptional contemporary-artist of Amsterdam  With a Deeper Feeling for Art Impression and Beauty in Life

After years of living abroad we moved back to Amsterdam our birth city. Around the corner of my apartment in one of   the streets  in the inner city “de Jordaan” I was fascinated by a contemporary-artist painting in a shopping window atelier/gallery in “de Hazenstraat” [Hare street] where I noticed an artist-painter  giving a ‘life performance of painting in his own atelier viewed from the street.  So I decided to go inside not knowing that it would have such a huge impact on me.... 

After a few visits I have the pleasure of getting to know more about the intriguing contemporary artist Joep Buijs – after a chat he agreed to an interview, which was Joep Buijs in his own words  “the deeper feelings behind his art expressions” - an event by itself:

First question not an easy one to answer – ‘why do you paint and what is the drive as a contemporary-artist behind you painting - in such a variety of styles?  

I paint to express and share my bewilderment about the temporary possession of a human body. Usually this possession is called 'life or being alive'. To be able to experience love, beauty, lust, fear, death and everything in my life is an amazing experience for me.

How did you decide to start painting as a contemporary artist?

I was born August 10 1962 in Leiden.  I have always been intrigued by the phenomenon of human/material existence driven by a universal feeling in - The existential principle of being 'alive'. So, as a result of this attraction I have chosen for a life in art. To me, existing IS art. As a child drawing and painting were the only things that felt natural to me. After some distractions (studying Law at the University of Amsterdam, solo backpack traveling for months in S.E. Asia) I cut to the chase. I defined my goal: getting as close as possible to the source of life itself, by creation – best explained by “an awareness of the limitations of my brain and the characteristics of my emotional baggage”.  

Can you define various techniques of expressing yourself as an contemporary-artist in your early and later period?

I set off to train my techniques at different Art Academies in the Netherlands (Wackers Academy, Amsterdam, the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam). Years of meditation and more traveling followed and in my late thirties I finally started to feel like a person who might have something significant to share on a believable level in the world of visual art. Over the years I have had the privilege to exhibit with success.

After extended traveling you started as a contemporary-artist in your atelier/gallery at the Hazenstraat in the Jordaan in Amsterdam - what inspired you?

The big step forward was made by starting my own gallery/studio in the heart of the Amsterdam contemporary artist district (Jordaan area) in 1999. I put my painter’s easel behind the glass window of my studio resulting in unlimited access to the comments of interested people - art lovers, art haters, insiders, outsiders. All communicated. About my motives, choices, techniques, prices and so on. Joyful, colourful work emerged. My DOG-PAINTINGS and HAPPY WOMEN did very well and the sales and commissions confirmed my growing sense of legitimate artistry.

In 2006 our daughter Lente [Spring] was born. As any parent will confirm newly born in the family – maybe besides being born and dying - THE major happening in human life.

For about 2 years after my daughter Lente was born I wasn't able to draw or paint a decent work. Having a lot of 'free time' I looked after her most of the time (my girlfriend having a 9-2-5 job).

And then I started to paint again in black and white mostly. Combining my initial love for drawing and material painting figurative, direct. Themes I use are close to my private life. Visualization of Love, desire for sex and my efforts to balance between bodily and spiritual satisfaction, aggression, amazement, frustration, sorrow, joy, ecstasy and more.

What I understand is that you were so to say guided not only as a contemporary-artist but by an inner force of awareness to proceed and express yourself by pencil and brush/pencil your live experiences?

I have discovered a tool – call it inner tool to direct my expressions of these life experiences. A talent for drawing and painting therefore my joy in sharing this talent is not temporary. If only one thought about my paintings will be remembered by you, even without my name being attached to it, my life (as a painter) will have been worth living. Being able to witness the responses to my works has been the biggest rewards therefore motivation for me.

This is why I have chosen to paint directly behind the shopping window of my atelier/gallery in the Hazenstraat.

I am convinced that by experiencing my paintings and maybe by observing me painting them you will be opening an energetic door to your awareness.

Nothing more, nothing less. Make no mistake; every existing cell that you encounter in your life does exactly the same. There's nothing special about my intention.

Have the objects you paint any relevance or awareness to the inner connection and interpretation on the objects painted?

The subject matter of my work is quite irrelevant really. Yes, painted faces are to be seen, some in black and white, others with lots of colours. Yet, they are themselves of no significance for anyone. It is you and in most cases your (subconscious) awareness that will make my paintings meaningful to you or others.

How do you associate you painting as a contemporary-artist with your travels?

My work as a contemporary-artist  has made me aware of my potential and, more importantly, the limitations of my talent. I try to learn from it as a man, as a father and as a painter. In painting most paintings I have traveled. Not just in a physical distance. Not by the endless amount of moves that I have made with my feet in the two square meters around my painters easel. This traveling took place in the unlimited space of my imagination and emotions that I have experienced while painting my paintings.

Is it right to compare every art work of you as a divine act of birth - not birth in exact term rather than universal birth, irrevocable?

Every single brushstroke of the thousands and thousands of strokes and every choice of colour and amount of paint that I have made was intended to be the one ingenious gesture that would open the door for me and all other viewers to the mystery of the origin and meaning of our temporary human existence, lives. Yes. No joke. Every single one.

Is there any divine or religious feeling coming up outside being a contemporary-artist while you performing?

My works have been made without prayer or worship to any divine projection, image or principle. Although I will admit that an energetic presence is always surrounding and influencing me while I paint or think about my paintings.

But as in pure meditation this presence is never making things easier or more relaxing to undergo. It appears in voices in my head, in fysical pain, in the eyes of passers-by who take a brief look into my eyes and at the paintings the moment they pass by in the street and notice the window behind which I paint my works.

I do not try to judge them, their opinion about my work or their thoughts about me as a person but over the years thousands of passers-by have certainly had some impact on my quest for acknowledgement.

Not the acknowledgement of me as an interesting person or artist, no. For me this is all about the act of acknowledgement in sharing some time and space together as human beings. You might say “interacting on different levels of extensional awareness”.

So I understand that you as a contemporary-artist are interacting on different levels; conscious, subconscious, the painter, the father in relation to the acknowledgement of your creation between people visitor’s passers-by transferring an existential awareness even a temporary connection?

After a long pause Joep’s says; an expression of love and contact to the ones who acknowledge themselves; me, my works and each other’s creating a miraculous temporary physical existence.

Frequently this transfer of existential awareness happens in less than a fraction of a second. For example while passing by on a bicycle or seated in the back of a speeding taxi a person makes an action, an effort to look at my work and I feel that. I do that every -- day to me this is what art and artists should be about - contact, communication and the sharing of awareness.

As a contemporary-artist; are you never afraid  or get a feeling of losing yourself in your own art maybe even want to destroy your creation?

I am not afraid to destroy parts of my paintings while painting them. Think of the Phoenix, the mythological bird that rises from destruction. Often a painting will take CONTROL, outside of my context of ideas, while I am painting it. I let that happen.

How about the beauty of things youth for example I mean outside any feeling being a contemporary-artist?

Letting go of the pursuit of beauty often leads to acquisition of truths. Truth has served me better than beauty. Beauty is usually just the doorstep to (or out of) good art.

Pass by beauty, start running/painting and you will find beauty and truth in the end, after your painting has turned you inside out, up and down, exstatic and depressed. If all goes well, I will be astonished about my work and won’t believe I have actually made it myself.

Have you ever felt in love with one of your creations?

No I don’t fall in love with it. I try to stay connected to the Source, let it go and paint again. It is the stream - call it universal awareness that counts, not the fruit itself.

How do you personally feel and value your own work? Personally I value every opinion about my work equally, so not the ones only from in-crowd ‘established’ insiders are important. I have had many discussions about this issue: recognition, with artists, curators, passers-by. They all agree on only one thing: I have to produce! Not necessarily a lot but I have to keep producing. And it is true. It is the only way to find out whether I have the credibility to express myself as an artist in the long run.

The recognition by others or breakthrough depends on many things. Not all of these “things” I can influence. My motivation and production is dependent of me and nobody else. It is the foundation. Luck and production is essential for possible broader recognition. The rest, even talent in my opinion, is of trivial importance. So I am ready, always. And in case all the ‘important’ people are distracted for years, I just keep producing! In the end it is only me who decides about my credibility expressing me my ideas my art.

After sharing 3 hours with the 21 century contemporary-artist Joep Buijs in his atelier with a cup of delicious herbal tea - I leave this interesting man with a feeling of understanding this artist On saying goodbye he says;  so whenever you feel like dropping by in my atelier feel free to ask me any question about anything that pops up in your mind and is related to my paintings.  And yes, your questions or ideas about other art, artists, society, political or other engagement, use of colours and brushes, life, love and death or about the staggeringly beautiful city of Amsterdam and its amazing locals and energy are welcome as well. Thanks for sharing your beautiful existence with mine. I knew then already that it was not my last visit to this extraordinary man. The beholder of art created by Joep Buijs becomes a deeper feeling and absolutely connects you to both the inside of yourself and the outside world around.  A wonderful experience, as long as there are people like him who can express themselves not only as a contemporary-artist but on several levels of existence. This is what I call art and Joep Buijs’ art works inspires me one of these rarities called ART. For more information about Joep Buijs art visit Interviewed by Nick Jacobs

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Joep Buijs Amsterdam's 21st Century Contemporary Artist

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