World Artists and their Story, 24 - John Oosting

John Oosting comes from Drenthe and he has a studio in Groningen. There he is in the weekends. John Oosting: “Very nice, that studio in town. I think it’s a fine situation. It gives a kind of balance. I cannot live without the tranquility of the countryside, but I also need the bustle of the city.”

John Oosting was born in Groningen, but grew up in Smilde, Drenthe. He now lives in Hoogersmilde. “A canal village where there ain’t much happening, but where I’m having a good time.” His subject is the city, and everything that happens there. “That’s because I come from the countryside. Then you’re curious about the city. Groningen is the place where it all happened and that is still the case.”

Alter ego

John is a conceptual artist. “The idea is leading, not the medium.” His art is about what he experiences. “My own life, but I can also get very inspired by a book or a painting and create work from what I read or see. I have phases that I get a lot of ideas at once. All of which I write down and some of them I work out.”

The character Henk is central in his work. Why Henk? “Henk is a common name in the north of Holland. When I meet a Henk, it never really is a normal person, though the name does suggest it. Henk is obviously autobiographical, but also stands for a more universal person. The big advantage is that I can look at myself from a distance. As time progresses, this becomes more and more sharp.”


His installations must comply with some conditions, he says. It refers to high ánd low art, it is inspired by a painting and the whole must be a dynamic, moving image. The relation between space and image is very important. From these principles, he started to make installations. How did the idea come up? John: “I was admitted to the Art Academy Minerva in Groningen. I was very happy. In the first year we were messing around as students. My work was figurative. At one point I saw a movie of the Raven sisters, twin sisters who are known for their installations, performances, videos and drawings. It made me a bit angry. ‘This can be done better’, I thought. Then I also made an installation. I called the installation ‘Atelier of Henk’. The teachers responded positively. I got good grades. ‘I should go on with this’ I thought.”

Geometric circles

In the second year he was going to make geometric circles, abstract work. But the idea of the installation was still there. His second installation was about the relationship between poker and economics. “I’m an avid poker player. Based on that, I made a ‘home game’. The relationship I was trying to establish was totally misunderstood, and made me realize that I needed to do the installations differently.” In his third installation he started to combine an installation and geometric circles. “I left out the whole story. On a painting on the wall I beamed a circle, a circle which was growing. The circle started to develop a relationship with the painting.”

In his fourth installation, now showing on Weesperplein Metro Station in Amsterdam, he relied on the work of Sol LeWitt. In the work, he uses the hasty move. “Patterns on the windows, on the paintings in the room and on the walls react and interfere with the people passing by. A person who halts continues to see movements by rotating objects.  

Techno Music

As a child John grew up with comic books. “Through comics, I came into contact with art. In the strips of Suske and Wiske were many references to Brueghel. That’s the reason graph got an important place in my work. I try to apply that technology in an innovative and experimental approach.” In addition, techno music is important to him. “The abstract, experimental and futuristic character speaks to me very much. A rave is a surreal and alienating experience. This experience I’ll take in my work.”

John graduated in July 2015 from Minerva Academy. He started in 2011. Since that moment he feels artist. “That was important to me, even more important than the graduation from the Academy.” His key work is his first installation. That put him on the track that he still follows.





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