World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 183 - V&B, Alex Jacobs and Ellemieke Schoenmaker
V&B is a Rotterdam art duo consisting of Alex Jacobs and Ellemieke Schoenmaker. Initially they were called Villeroy & Boch, after the company of the porcelain and the bathrooms, but that was shortened to V&B, the company did not like it anyway.
The atelier of V & B gives a cheerful and playful impression, just like their website with a hip music in the background. With a little stairway I climb onto the raised platform where Alex and Ellemieke tell me a bit more about their lives (they are a couple in everyday life) and work.
Ellemiek: "In our work we make combinations. It starts with spontaneous ideas that we link to visions, myths, thoughts and symbols." Alex:" Often it is about relationships within art: what makes someone an artist? What is a work of art? How does the artist relate to the public? What is the role of the museum?" The book 'Painting from A to Z' is their great source of inspiration. V&B: "There is a lot of questioning and amazement in that book."
They had many questions and doubts about so-called fixed ideas. Ellemieke: "That led us to do things in a playful way, so that we created a certain airiness. Much self-mockery. It was better to poke yourself than to be super serious. If you have criticism, it is best to start with yourself. Actually, we are a kind of comedian." She made the painting 'Blind Ambition', where she stands with a lift sign 'Basel' on a painted highway, standing on a crate of beer, hoping for a lift to the art fair Basel.
It started with a project in LA, America. Alex: "I could come there to carry out a project and Ellemieke went along. We arrived at an Art Residency in Downtown LA. LA was so different, different and better light, bright colors. We decided to become explorers in the city. So far from the Netherlands we felt free to do everything we felt like, even though we were serious artists. We were going to make an installation with things that we encountered on the street / in nature. On the street we were shocked to see so many homeless people. We could fit the materials we collected in the form they had in the installation, but we could also abstract it. Just as Mondriaan did. He had abstracted everything. Or Malevich, with his black surface. But perhaps Malevich had seen that black surface in real life? That brought us to the question: what was conceived and studied and what is real? "
Back in the Netherlands they continued on this track. V&B: "We made another installation. In a dirty basement we placed paintings of us next to a work by Sol LeWitt. In the middle a petrified figure of plaster, that figure was petrified because he got 'Stendhal's syndrome'. People can get confused completely, get palpitations and faint when confronted with the beauty of art, Stendhal described it in his book 'Rome, Naples, Florence'. Apparently fantasy can carry people away. Is this inherent in fantasy or not? Senses could also be stimulated differently. And we as artists can step into an alter-ego and respond to it in order to make a successful career in art. But what does that mean? "
Jaap Sleper, who had a large painting company, but also a gallery, invited them to a group exhibition. That was in 2008. "That was very stimulating. It meant the start of us as a duo V&B. He sold a lot of work from us." Alex, who was originally a sculptor, then went on to make paintings that he submitted for the Royal Award for Free Painting in 2008, an initiative of the House of Orange. He was one of the four selected and received the award at the GEM in The Hague from Queen Beatrix. Alex: "Super nice. The following year we immediately had a big solo show in TENT in Rotterdam with paintings. I also used photos of our work in LA. We photoshopped them and started to paint them again." They did that with their own secret technique, in which you do not see any brush strokes. "You get that when you mix a lot of paints, acrylics, oil and varnish on the basis of turpentine." On the KunstRai they made an installation of a gallerist who had been beaten up. "It was about the artist's relationship with a gallery owner." In 2014 they went back to LA for a museum show. The work was partly sold online from LA and for another part they organized an evening in the Netherlands, where the rest was sold.
Do V&B have a key work, a work that is important, possibly leading to a turning point? That does not immediately appear to be the case. V&B: "From one thing comes the other. In our installations individual parts tell a story together, but in a different composition they can tell another story." In 2011 they made a two-part work for a gallery that was being renovated. In the 'white cube' of the gallery one part of the work could be seen, but a painting hanging there also turned out to be the door to a cellar, and when you walked down the stairs you saw the rest of the work, including a movie. And also work from colleagues. "With your colleagues you behave differently than with the general public. Colleagues have a faster understanding. They are generally very nice, but at the same time you are also each other's competitors. "
Special, but not directly a key work is a painting of 6x3 entitled ‘Kunstkamer, From Hermetic to Coherent (The Rotterdam Meta Masterpiece)’ on which 80 Rotterdam fellow artists have been painted. "À la 17th century works, where you see paintings on and next to each other. We have been working on it for almost two years, from December 2014 to January 2015. A painting that you like to converse with. "
Alex and Ellemieke have bought a house from their savings. A lot of chores have to be done there. There is a living area, a project space and a part is sublet via Airbnb. Wasn’t that complicated, rebuilding a house yourself? Alex: "With Youtube videos you make a lot of progress. Among other things, we made wash basins made of colored layers of plaster. We then scoured it. Then you get a magic ball effect. "
Ellemieke graduated from the AKI in Enschede in 1995. She lived in Rotterdam for a year and attended a postgraduate course in Groningen, the Frank Mohr Institute, after which she returned to Rotterdam. She feels herself a real artist since 1999. Alex was also on the AKI, from 1995 to 2000. He went to Amsterdam, during New Year's Eve 2002/03 he met Ellemieke in Rotterdam. And after a while he transferred his studio to this city.
What is their experience with art life? Ellemieke: "It is developing. Over the years you get more experience and new insights. Your desires get different, you see the relative of things more quickly. You kick the brakes earlier. When you're young, you go all out for something. Now you sometimes think 'I've done that before'." Alex: "I started with Bcademie. That is a training for net graduates / post-graduates. Experienced artists share their lessons with beginners on this training. Themes that are discussed are commercialism (how commercial can you be), integrity and the effective offering of your work. 'Stay on course' is a message, 'Do not make big mistakes', “Do not wait until the top gallery comes along’. We are now in four locations with four different teams with guest lecturers. The course has eight monthly lessons. The students come from all over the Netherlands."
Ideal mix of knowledge and spontaneity
Finally, what is their philosophy? V&B: "It's all about finding the ideal mix of knowledge and spontaneity. Together we get more and better ideas than we would if we thought only in our own way. The disadvantage is that we have so many ideas, that sometimes we are not immediately recognized."
Desperate ambition 2) The Great Perspective (The Tower), 2012, 3) Dancing in the belly of the painting, 2014, 4) Deceptions a GoGo - The Unknown is a Most Welcome Observer, 5) The dealer, the lover, 2010, 6) Early example of an adult God, 7) From Hermetic to Coherent, 2013-2015, 300 x 600cm, 8) Form, 9) Glossy End (self-portrait as leader), 10) Painting from A to Z, 11) London-Paris-New Work, 2014, 12) Perpetual Encore (the interpretation of Studioremains), 2018, 13) This painting needs Attention from an Expert in Statistics, 2014, 14), V&B, 2008