Artist statement

From a very young age – basically as soon as I learned to grab hold of a pencil – I’ve been drawing and painting and building the worlds that I travel inside my head.

My work is figurative and slightly surreal. People often tell me that I seem to tell stories with my art. That’s not quite true though; I much rather hand them the seeds that they can grow a story from, all by themselves.

I’m in love with some materials. I keep using them; worn wood, the dryness of paper. The translucency of glass, resins and waxes. Lacquered cardboard. Lead. Sand, clay, chalk. Liquids. Pigments.

Castle – unbaked clay, circa 1979

A lot of my source material is found, gifted or bought in thriftstores. I believe in upcycling and I honestly believe that the stories old objects can tell, transfer into my work. Glass fronted boxes, deep frames, books and free-standing objects; these are the shapes I tend to gravitate towards.
My methods include collage and assemblage but I also work in etching, painting, drawing and writing.

As with all artists, I keep visiting some themes, discovering new ones and circling back to old ones. Mine include history – both personal as well as general, science, collections, games, mechanisms, stories & light. They regularly dip into alchemy, anthropology and random weirdness.
Visually I tend towards small and intricate pieces. I’m not scared of colours. I use grids, layers, text, systems and taxonomies. My work is detailed and I spend a lot of time on “hidden” areas; the back, the inside, the parts that are occluded by other parts. I often add some ageing to a piece, instilling a seemingly historical past in a synthetic way.
I don’t think I’ve ever made a piece without a title. Names are important to me, as are words (many times a word or a piece of prose was the inspiration for a work. I usually have a title ready before the work has even been finished).

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the people that inspire me; all my loved ones and family, my father Wim for showing me the way, my mother Nancy for unconditionally supporting me, great artists such as Joseph Cornell, Carel Willink, Nick Bantock (and countless others) and last but not least my ever changing hive of friends.
I owe an even bigger debt of gratitude to the few that criticize my work; they teach me the real lessons.

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Misja van Laatum Art