It’s Art. Not Chemistry!

An interview with Dutch painter, Inge Aanstoot, quickly turns into a maelstrom of associations that, in a split second, leaves you far away from your question. Thoughts meander endlessly, and before you know it – and with great pleasure – it is three hours later. Your questions still have not been addressed, let alone answered. Anyone who knows Inge’s paintings will not be surprised. Her work has been described as unbridled associations, of which she gradually becomes the conductor. Together with Thierry Reniers, Inge looks back on her development as a painter and talks about the challenges in the upcoming six years.

by Thierry Reniers

Inge, how did you experience the period after your graduation?
At art school I didn’t learn anything about what comes to you as an artist. That’s quite alright. For my first solo exhibition at the Vonkel gallery, in The Hague, I already had work lined up. I wasn’t pushed at all at the time. That changed when I was asked whether I had work available for such and such art shows. Fortunately, deadlines work well for me and I can work all through the night. But working three days a week in a drugstore doesn’t leave much space in your mind to take the next important steps. Every aspiring painter faces this issue of course, but it’s great that I can fully concentrate on my art work now. Frustrations about the process can result in very good results. The painting, ‘The Young Artist’ for example, is such an explosion of frustration, and is about the struggle that every artist goes through. That made it a very atypical work, a key work actually.

Inge Aanstoot-The Young Artist (2014)

Can you tell us more about your key works?
For a long time ‘Fever Pitch’ was a key work, although it was created very differently. After a period in which I had a lot of time to try things out, I was asked to create a work for an exposition in Rotterdam, in TENT. That gave me a positive boost. Looking back, I notice that my key works are created every time something crucial changed in my life. ‘Caught In the Act’ was created when I got more and more involved with artists’ initiatives, and studio complexes. There was hassle about my work between two galleries. The painting is partly about my own positioning. Over the past six years I have learned to tell authorities like museum directors and gallery owners what I think and how I would like things to be.

Inge Aanstoot-Caught in the act (2012)
Inge Aanstoot-Caught in the act (2012)

How does your work reflect upon your personal development?
‘Verhalenvertellers’ (2010), ‘Land’s End’ (2009) of ‘Pomegranates’ (2009) are full of associations, and I can tell what each element means, or why it is where it is. ‘Gamma Delta’ (2015) and ‘Sabi’ (2015) are, more than is usual for my work, empty paintings. I now allow myself to paint them emptier. I no longer have to put everything I see or think, in one painting. I feel it is no longer necessary that everything in a painting focusses on the same theme. I realise that everything I put on canvas can be seen as a statement. But, I don’t feel the obligation to explain everything. It’s art, not chemistry. It’s a bit like not hearing the end of a story at a party. That story will be thrilling forever. In a similar way, I want my work to have a thrilling relationship with my thoughts. I don’t want to be merely the illustrator of my ideas. That’s why I am not a politically engaged artist. Of course I have opinions on politics, but I don’t think it interesting to use them one-on-one on canvas. For me, painting is simply not the medium for this.

Have you become freer in the way you paint?
I think less about the exact how and why I put certain elements on canvas. Sometimes it is just too comprehensive. In ‘On Rites’ there is a dead seal puppy with worms coming out of its head. An image coming straight from a documentary by David Attenborough. Every night before bedtime I watch documentaries, because I think it’s interesting to see what fascinating things nature brings. Such a seal head combined with crawling worms and starfishes is a very aesthetic image. I think it is shocking that people would rather shop than explore nature. They take their children to the Zoo but don’t read the information on the signs, and hardly look at the animals. The painting deals with all these things. I have become freer in my substantive choices. But I am also more aware of the reactions to my work. With my first paintings, everybody asked why I painted with so many drips. I didn’t do it consciously. It is because of the many layers of thinned acrylic that I used. The same goes for all of these white people who resembled corpses. If only one person has this association, I don’t take any notice of it. But if many have this association, it is a reason for me to wonder why I portrayed people like that. It shouldn’t become a trick. A friend once said jokingly: “Inge’s work? That’s a bunch of plants, dead animals and a woman with one finger in her vagina.” Indeed, I deliberately show certain elements frequently in my work. But I want every new work to add something new.

Are there any other remarkable changes in your work?
The faces shown in my work have become more realistic. My work has also become more balanced, I think, because I make clearer choices. I hesitate less to nick images. Why would I think about how to portray a dead seal, when there are documentaries? As long as it fits within what I want to communicate and within my way of working, I think I can integrate the work of other artists in my paintings. ‘Caught In the Act’ shows, my version of ‘Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy’ by David Hockney, in the background. In this work I also used the bottom of a poster by Egon Schiele and a half-crumpled drawing by Leopold Rabus. My work is about how images and information drown us and influence us. Why then should I feel guilty about integrating these images in my paintings? The funny thing is that these liberties make me add less to my paintings. Half of ‘Gamma Delta’ is a mint green wall and that is actually more interesting than a busy background, as I intended to do. Technical consideration also plays a larger role. In ‘Sabi’ for example, I chose to leave the foot of the person at the right, unfinished. And yet, hardly anybody noticed that.

Inge Aanstoot- Gamma Delta (2015)

How do you think your work will continue to develop?
There is more abstraction, although I think I will never only paint spots and stripes. The road is clear to experiment with different formats, to focus on different media like sculpture or performing arts. Painting comes naturally to me. I could paint plants, animals and women until the end of days. And sometimes a man. I am not the type that puts a few wooden boxes in a meadow with a text. But I see myself combining paintings and spatial art. Everything that feels comfortable, can restrict you. If I noticed that painting feels too comfortable, I would like to expand.

Photography: Jasmijn Schrofer