Artists in lockdown Q&A: Jacco Olivier

Over the past year we have learned to organize our daily life in a different way. A lot has changed for artists too: there were no – or fewer – opportunities to exhibit work, while a lot of time was spent in the studio. How do artists shape the changing world? In the Artist in lockdown-series, we’ll talk to our artists about their experiences during the pandemic. Today’s Q&A with: Jacco Olivier.

“As an artist one should always try things out, but now it just feels more comfortable, like no one is watching.”

How has life been during lockdown? Has it been a time of solitude or has it brought you and your family closer together?
The second lockdown felt less weird than the first one. I kind of do well in lockdown; no distractions, no pressure. no social obligations, nowhere to go; studio life at its best.

Did the lockdown alter your vision of the world?
I don’t know yet. Things are always shifting right? Reality is bizarre. Maybe now things move forward a bit quicker. It’s good to see how resilient and versatile we are, how quick we adjust to new circumstances. If we must.

How did the lockdown affect your art practice?
Because it feels a bit like the world is coming to a hold, I feel no pressure and can just do what I want, try things out, give it time. As an artist one should always do that but now it just feels more comfortable, like no one is watching. In the first lockdown I made a series of paintings of monkeys.  Just because I wanted to. Now I did a series of large galaxies. Not thinking about why paint a galaxy, but more born out of a childlike desire. By doing a lot of them I see again that the subject is not the content. It does not matter so much what you paint. It’s the way you render it.

Could you tell me more about one specific work you created during lockdown?
‘Bandwidth III’ is big painting with a constellation of 21 circles on it. The biggest circle is painted the lightest; bare canvas shines through. The background around the circles is build up from many layers and gets thicker while the circles are spared out. In that sense it’s a reversed painting. The dark background has a very thin layer of color over it, red, yellow and blue, where they mix there is an even thinner, broken up layer of green and purple, it gives light and depth to the flat surface. On the topside of the painting is a band of raw untouched canvas; that’s how far I could reach.  And it allows to see traces of previous layers. It gives an edge and denials the depicted image. It also gives the painting an off-centered feeling.  This off-centered feeling gets balanced by the almost spiritual or cosmic feel that resonates from the painting.

What do you think about the surge of online activities during lockdown? Besides negative experiences, like being unable to see art in real life, were there any positive experiences? Is there a specific initiative that inspired you?
I think that’s a good thing. It feels things got even more accessible now. We find new ways of depicting artworks online and getting more aware of online experiences. Stuff that does not work will disappear and the good things will remain.

What will 2021 bring us?
Surprises and valuable insights. And joy and happiness, I hope.

ABOUT Jacco Olivier

Jacco Olivier fuses painting and filmmaking by repeatedly reworking paintings in generous casual brush strokes and systematically photographing each development. The various stages are combined into projected animations. The resulting films are enigmatic and experiential – moving in and out of abstraction they reveal the traces and decisions made by the artist in the process of painting. While there is a clear and quite complex process involved in their creation, Olivier does not set a thematic agenda for the works, or for their relationship to one another. The films are instead imagined as windows onto converging, and often elegantly simple, moments of daily life – a bus journey, a swim in the ocean, or a walk through the woods. At this convergence of painting and cinema, however, lies an uneasy tension, a feeling that something is about to happen or has just happened that is unexpected and beyond our control.

Jacco Olivier is a graduate of the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam. He has exhibited worldwide, notably at ZKM, Karlsruhe; Sammlung Goetz, Munich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY; Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht; MCA Denver, CO; The 56th Venice Biennial, Venice; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; New York City Center/New Museum, New York, NY, and GEM, The Hague. His art is held in many public collections, including Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; the Honart Museum, Tehran; the Zabludowicz Collection, London, and the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL. In 2019, he was awarded the Jeanne Oosting Prize for figurative painting in The Netherlands.

Jacco Olivier was born in 1972 in Goes, The Netherlands
He lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands