Ladies and Gentlemen,
All good things come in three, even during the strangest of times. Therefore I’m very happy to welcome you to the third chapter of Visual Satiation!
In our first interview of this series of chats with terrific artists, we have the pleasure of catching up with Daan Botlek. Dann is a dear, Dutch human being, and a uniquely deep artist.
His vibrant, graphic works include restless figures that appear to be in search of something, goofing around in the space, and passing through other dimensions in a chill but insistent way.
Daan also plays a lot with the environments that surround him, transforming the everyday into something new by entangling it in his bizarre visions.
Hello Daan, and welcome to a new chapter of Visual Satiation!
Thank you for being our first guest!
Let’s start by introducing yourself: who is Daan Botlek, and what’s the background that shaped the person and the artist he is today?
Pfff.. Okay, complicated story. Let’s see..
Born in the late 70’s nearby Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Partly happy childhood, partly frustrating childhood (..but who didn’t have that experience..).
High school years didn’t really work out for me.
I never got why I had to go to high school, it felt like a charade.
Asking questions about this didn’t go anywhere, the answers were dogmatic and basically focussed on avoiding more questions.
In my late teens, I suddenly became very ill and ended up in the hospital.
There I shared rooms with guys in their 50’s and 60’s who knew they were going to die, sharing their life stories with me.
Pretty intense stuff, but also liberating.
Compared to school the hospital felt real and honest, everything made sense and was (ironically and paradoxically) well connected with life.
After these experiences, the expectations of other people and institutions became a bit of a joke to me.
That made me sort of an observer, no strong need to be part of anything or making a name for myself.
Hmm.. This all sounds a bit bleak and depressing, but the following years made up for this.
Chasing the Devil, Rotterdam
What are the triggers for the stories you tell through your sharp, twisted art? What themes fascinate you the most?
There’s no clear answer to that, it changes from time to time.
The main subjects (most of the time) are plain human bodies.
These bodies don’t have a specific personality or character, I merely use them as objects.
Stacking them into compositions, multiplying them as patterns, moulding them into new shapes.
Compositions often follow basic geometric shapes or loop movements.
The outcome of sketching like this automatically becomes metaphoric, you will instantly project ideas or emotions because you’re looking at human characters.
At that point, I sometimes add little gestures to direct the image in a certain direction (you can also do that with a title of course), but many times I don’t and leave it to the audience.
When I paint somewhere outside I will try to incorporate the surroundings to create an interaction between the painted image (character) and it’s environment.
This way the whole environment becomes a part of the image.
From time to time I take a personal favourite subject and try to (visually and conceptually) look at it from as many different angles as possible and make an elaborate and diverse series of it.
Making these series is a fun exercise and a nice escape (/side project) from the minimal character based introspective images I mostly do.
How do you usually work?
I’ve always approached art as a way of life rather than it being a job (still have to find the right balance between the two..).
Art is a perfect way to store, process and exchange information.
I do so by creating very minimal images that don’t depend on style or technique to communicate a story or concept.
I have no interest in making beautiful images or creating a trademark character or style.
Somehow it feels like I made an addictive game of it, coming up with new concepts all the time, hardly taking the time to elaborate on them, moving on to the next one constantly.
Besides illustrations and murals, you play a lot with what surrounds you, like that series of weird painting tools, funny objects, and other brilliant installations you’ve created. What made you do them?
You live now in Rotterdam, where you’re also from, but for many years you traveled and worked all over the world. You must have seen a lot! What’s the funniest experience you’ve ever had?
I got into trouble a lot alright, which I guess counts as a funny experience.
But I didn’t need to leave Rotterdam for that, more than enough trouble to be found over there either.
Actually, most of the ‘funny experiences’ are tragic but crazy ones which made for good stories afterward. Let’s see…
I just mentioned the exhibition in Bangkok.
The roof of the exhibition space had a bar and sound system.
One night we had a private party with the gallery owner and employees, and some friends.A release of all the stress and hard work, and celebration of a successful opening event.
The sound system volume went up all the time, and of course, I had to play some electronic Rotterdam folk music (gabber), the whole neighbourhood could enjoy it with us.
3 in the house right next to the roof terrace was an old man on his deathbed (we didn’t know that), his son was furious but kept everything inside and didn’t show up.
A few days later was the closing event of the exhibition.
A huge crowd gathered on the roof for an acoustic performance.
It was a nice and easy going event but the son next door lost it and went on the roof next to the terrace.
The neighboring roof was a few meters above the terrace.
From here the neighbors’ son looked over the crowd, he dropped his pants and started to pee over the audience. He was quite determined to sabotage the event.
In the vein of unforgettable experiences, you probably faced the scariest of all things only a few months ago… Do you feel like talking about it?
Thank the Universe you lived to tell the tale! You seem immensely lucky and hard to kill. How are both the recovery and simultaneous quarantine going for you? What’s the first thing you’d like to do once this craziness is over and you’re fully recovered?
The accident happened in Berlin and I spent 2 weeks in a hospital over there.
Recovery went quite fast, I just needed one last knee surgery and the doctors asked if I would prefer to have it done in Berlin or in Rotterdam.
I decided to go to Rotterdam so I could spend some time with family and old friends while recovering.
After the first night in the Rotterdam hospital they send me home already.
Based on tests they did on arrival they concluded that I was perfectly healthy and there was no need to keep me in the hospital, I could wait for surgery at home.
Which I don’t have so that meant my parents’ place.
For different unfortunate reasons the surgery got postponed a few times, and then the corona tragedy kicked in and all non-corona procedures in hospitals were postponed indefinitely…
So I left my place late December to have some beers with friends, and after this woke up in January in a hospital. Basically then my quarantine started and I’m spending it at my parents’ place.
This, and some other unmentioned events colliding at the same time, makes this ordeal a surreal but interesting mindfuck.
All this started with climbing a roof for some existential talks, and it seems I got more than I had asked for.
But eventually, I can only laugh about it. I’m healthy and safe, and I hope you all are too, that is all that matters.
But I’ll leave open the possibility that I’m still in a coma and all of this is part of an escalating fever dream 😉
And the first thing to do when this is over? The only thing on my mind right now is to run, jump and swim again, but that’s going to be part of the recovery process anyway, whenever that starts..
And after that? I guess going back to Berlin to return the books friends borrowed me when I was in the hospital.
And there’s probably a few beers interest involved for returning them severely over time.
Spectacular prospect isn’t it!
If you could settle down in your dream location/ house, where would that be?
A hillside forest with a small stream meandering through. A spacious treehouse with a roof terrace just above the treetops, overlooking the valley.
Forget spacious, regular treehouse will do.
On this roof terrace is an Eames lounge chair, a small cabinet with the finest whiskeys, a modest fireplace, no sound system, and an unlimited supply of mosquito killer rackets.
I just made this up but I think I’ll keep this thought, finally a realistic goal to reach for!
Let’s keep talking about music! Name the first band you fell in love with as a kid, the bands you listened to in high school, and the bands you’re currently listening to.
As a kid, I wasn’t that much into music, but I’ve got good memories of the ’60s/70’s rock and soul music my parents put on during summer holiday road trips through Europe.
In high school, I became obsessed with electronic music by the likes of The Orb, Aphex Twin, Biosphere, Plastikman. Later on, different phases followed early blues(rock) and garage from the ’50s and 60’s, and also 70’s music from Africa, Thailand and Korea.
Recently I’m focussed on experimental music from Germany in the 60’s/70’s, Cluster, Harmonia, Neu! And Can. I’m not really up to date with contemporary music, but Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall are clear favourites.
What’s another unknown talent of yours?
Yahtzee? Following ants? Getting away with things?
Recommend our dear readers stuck at home a book you love.
What’s the weirdest thing you used to eat as a child?
One day early on primary school everybody in class received a piece of paper for an assignment.
Me and my neighbor were curious if we could eat paper, so we challenged each other.
When the teacher collected the papers again we had a hard time explaining her what happened to it.
Looking at it from retrospect I guess a lot of kids tried it at some point, and the assignment was actually a psychological test.
What’s the movie that traumatized your childhood?
The Skeksis characters in “The Dark Crystal” were pretty scary, and so were the Gremlins.
But most traumatizing to see as a young boy probably was “Dirty Dancing”.
Lastly, let’s give you just a few minutes to draw a caricature of yourself and see how it goes! Ready? Go!