BEYOND PHOTOGRAPHY - The Leading Experimental Photography Platform

SYNTHESIS


"Start by telling us a little bit about you."

My name is Joris Graaf. I was born in The Hague, but raised across the globe. I come from a geology background, but, obviously, I'm currently working on quite different things. I live and work near The Hague with my Italian wife and 2 children, aged 3 and 5.

"You are self taught and your work is driven by emotion. What is the starting point for creating a piece of artwork and do you have any rituals that influence how/when you make your work?"

The 'when' part of that question is easy to answer: I use every single second that I have available when the family is off doing other things.

The starting point of a piece of artwork varies quite a bit: sometimes, I just take out my camera and walk. I'll look for shapes and textures that inspire me and then I'll make double-exposure photographs of those to use as the raw ingredients that I'll feed into my laptop when I get back home. Often I'll just go to random locations that look interesting, but sometimes I visit places that have some significance for my own history or that of my family: I'll visit my old school or the place my grandparents used to live, for instance. I'm incredibly nostalgic. On other occasions, I start off with a mental picture of the type of piece that I want to create and then I build my own scene to photograph with all kinds of material that I have lying around the house: paint, cardboard, plastic, etc.

After collecting photographic material, I move on to the processing of the images in Lightroom. I always do that at home. The last bit of the ritual is music. I always have music on when I'm creating. It's a massive influence for me.

"How did you get started as a creative?"

One day, I decided that I'd start making photos, so I went out and bought a decent camera. I had no idea how to use it and didn't know anything about art. I just started doing it. 

In the beginning, I took photographs of the world around me: buildings, plants, people, but I quickly realised I had a tendency to make abstractions and to alter the images in some way. I didn't really know the world of abstract art until I started to post my work on Instagram. There, I discovered contemporary abstract art and then especially abstract painting, It completely blew me away. I'm not sure it was a conscious decision, but I started to develop ways to create abstract 'paintings' with my camera and laptop. I found ways to completely misuse Lightroom to transform my raw images. But I also learned what kind of raw imagery I needed to make with my camera. That's how my current practise started. 

"I sometimes struggle with the feeling that my digital photographic work isn't as 'real' as a painting, but then, on other days, I actually believe I'm doing something new and different, that I'm experimenting with synthesisers rather than using guitars"

"Your work is a collaboration of painting and photography. How did you discover love for both mediums and how do you create a consistent visual style across both?"

After a while, I developed this nagging feeling (that I still have) that I should be making art with my hands. That's when I started to actually paint and for a while I struggled, trying to do both in parallel. I did try to create a consistent visual style across both media, but I'm not sure that I did. Then my photographic work started to get noticed, so for the last year I've been focussing on that. I sometimes struggle with the feeling that my digital photographic work isn't as 'real' as a painting, but then, on other days, I actually believe I'm doing something new and different, that I'm experimenting with synthesisers rather than using guitars. In any case, I am looking for ways to make my work more 'physical' and I'm currently working on an exciting new project to do just that.

"What makes a piece of abstract work good and how do you know when you have created something that will resonate with a viewer?"

To be honest, I have no idea whatsoever as to what makes an abstract piece good! I don't know anything about art. I just follow my instincts. That's true for both my own work and other artists' work. There are people out there who can create beauty with a single colour and a few well-placed lines. Others create incredibly elaborate multi-layered pieces with a million colours, shapes and different textures. If the art resonates with me, I can enjoy both. I only need a second to see if I like something or if I don't. With my own work, it's the same: I completely rely on my intuition. If I don't like what I see, I dump it. But when I do make something that works, I just know it.

"Working with digital programs and using elements of photography in your work; do you consider your work to be photography or something different?"

I don't really consider what I do to be Photography and I don't follow developments in the field. I'm much more in tune with what contemporary painters are doing. 

"What is the future of art?"

I don't have enough knowledge of contemporary art or of art history to say something very intelligent about that, so I won't even try. 

The one thing that I will say is that, perhaps, one day, there will be more widespread acceptance of digital art in its various forms. And I'm pretty sure that the trend in the art world to go online will continue, especially because of the current covid situation. I have mixed feelings about this, though. For sure, the current generation of artists have access to an audience that was unheard of in the days before internet, but nothing can beat the feeling of having work on display in an actual physical show and the interaction with people that goes along with that.

"Thank you, Joris."

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