Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Willem Jacques Hoeffnagel’s debut mini solo exhibition “Mixed Emotions” which is a prelude to a larger exhibition with the artist set for Spring 2023.
The recognizable figures that have often been featured in Willem’s work have been close to him for more than a decade. Using the figures as a placeholder for a person, whether himself or someone else, it allows him to portray a scene or part of a small story to the viewer without putting too much attention to who it’s meant to be.
In our interview with Willem Jacques Hoeffnagel, he shares the journey he’s been on the past few years and the artists that have inspired his creative development.
Can you share with us a little bit about your upbringing, and where you are currently working on your art?
My upbringing was great! I can’t say it any other way. It was a family that was open to art, music, and general creativity. My mom is a fashion designer with her own label and store that has been a staple in my city for 40 years now, my dad was a landscape architect when I was a kid. Very different but both definitely creative jobs. It was always encouraged to be creative. Whether that meant drawing, painting, playing guitar or making some clay sculptures there was always room to try things.
I wasn’t planning, basically ever, to be an artist but looking back it’s not a huge shock as I was always drawing and semi-regularly painting – and also very bad at anything school-related – so I guess it was kind of obvious that I wouldn’t end up doing something very technical anyways.
Currently working on my art from my home where I live with my girlfriend, which isn’t ideal as I create a classic painter’s mess in the house so I applied for a studio. Fingers crossed!
What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes have you been exploring in your work?
For some previous shows, I explored the mundane, ordinary scenarios in life without putting too much meaning behind them but rather enjoying the exploration of how I can put emotion or character in the figure even though there are limited facial features.
I do think there will be some other figures with actual faces (I have been drawing those for years and years but haven’t put them into paintings recently) but for “Mixed Emotions” I liked the challenge of conveying a feeling or emotion with just the eyes.
Which pieces in this body of work was most challenging?
Probably “Blank stare”. It’s this woman wearing sunglasses and of course, sunglasses are usually used to help hide your emotions so the blank stare is something that came quite naturally.
Could you share what your day-to-day looks like when working in your studio? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
Honestly, it’s quite random. Like I said, for now, I work from home so it’s a mix of doing chores around the house and painting. Which now that I think about it, probably is the reason why I keep painting ordinary things, it’s because that’s what it’s like for me!
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is the most difficult part?
The favorite is actually finishing the piece! Closely followed by painting the textures, shading etc. The first is satisfying because you get to hang the painting and that is always an exciting feeling. The most difficult usually is starting the piece, unless I have a seriously solid plan beforehand but that’s almost never the case.
Who inspires you as an artist?
Different artists inspire me for different reasons but the two that jump to mind right away are Klaas Gubbels and KAWS. Gubbels is a painter originally from Rotterdam but has been active and famous in my home city Arnhem for decades. I love his paintings but I can’t figure out why. He’s been painting coffee cans and tables for literally fifty years now but there’s just something so iconic and monumental about them which is very addicting.
I did realize that that’s probably a reason why my paintings tend to be full, simple compositions and not very detailed or precise.
When I first saw a picture of a KAWS painting I was blown away. At that time I wasn’t at all planning to pursue my drawing and painting hobby any further because I just subconsciously knew it couldn’t be a thing for me. I saw a chum painting by him on the shaped canvas and I was shocked. You can paint…cartoony figures? And it’s actual art? It blew my mind for some reason and a few days after that I painted my first ‘real’ piece based on the character that I only drew on corners of notebooks for all my school years.
What’s in your “artistic toolbox”? Are you particular about brands that you use?
I use Winsor & Newton oil paints mostly, nothing too crazy. It’s what I started using some years ago and I’m hesitant to switch to anything else since I genuinely just like the paint.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?
2020 was challenging because that’s the year when my study at art school stopped because of an argument I got into with my teachers because they wanted to flunk me. Little did I know it would be a great opportunity for me!
What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)
Art-related; definitely my solo show at Padre in NYC in collaboration with LeagueOTO. 2021 was life-changing for me and I will never forget the opening night. It was unbelievable that such a thing could happen to me. Forever grateful.
And in life thus far it’s also connected to that year in art. I now sustain myself fully and live with my girlfriend, dog and cat in an amazing little rented house in the center of Arnhem and it just feels great that this art journey made that possible.
What big projects do you have coming up in 2022 and 2023 that you’d like to share more about?
The first half of 2022 is pretty packed! Of course, the show at Thinkspace LA which I’m very excited about as well as some other shows coming up, including my first real group exhibition in The Netherlands at kunstRAI with Vroom&Varossieau! I can’t share it all for now but there will be quite some new work coming out for sure.