Interview by Giorgia Mannucci - Art Gallery and Institution consultant, and Art and Toy design addicionado
Painter, illustrator and collector of flea market treasures, the Dutch artist Femke Hiemstra is ready to present her first vinyl toy in collaboration with the fantastic Cherry Vinyl.
Considered one of the most interesting Pop Surrealist made in Europe, Femke Hiemstra's artworks are populated by anthropomorphic animals and supernatural creatures that look like they've just landed from a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale to take part to the Halloween party.
A wondeful mixture of magic, cuteness, creepy and an astonishing technique, the observer can't help but become kidnapped inside her intriguing stories painted on such unique and appropriately wonderful surfaces as vintage book covers, candy tin boxes or stoops.
The arrival of such terrific new character as Le Chat Domestique inside the toy scene, can't be but acclaimed by collectors and lovers.
1) Femke you are an internationally famous artist from Holland. Your artworks highly sought after, with a long waiting list (and I know because I tried many times!). Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm a former illustrator who kind of rolled into making art. I used to make painted illustrations but at one point went along with the digital revolution and switched to making Photoshop coloured work. But I found the constant staring at a monitor not very pleasant so I went back to painting again, but this time only for the fun of it. I put those works online and they got noticed up by a gallery and they offered me a spot in a show and so the ball started rolling. At one point I could not combine Illustration with art anymore so I decided to go solely for the latter. And here I am!
2) Most of your paintings are book covers of invented novels with a terrific narrative power: an entire surrealist fairy tale described in one single picture. Do you use to create an entire story, with characters and a plot, when you are sketching a new piece or art? Or is mostly a matter of great composition?
What I paint is a scene from a story, not a complete story nor just a composition.
3) Le Chat is your first vinyl toy, inspired by your painting Le Chat Domestique. Do you follow the toys scene? Which are you favorite artists or vinyl toys?
I must admit that I hardly follow the toy scene. When seeing a cool vinyl toy I'm usually able to recognize the work of the artist but I really can't tell you any names. But I do like characters a lot and collect them as well, but mostly the more awkward looking, unfamiliar stuff that you can find on fleamarkets or in antique shops.
4) If so, what is the story behind Le Chat Domestique, and why did you choose among all your incredible cast of figures to introduce yourself in the art toys scene with this character?
Luke of Lulubell was the one who invited me to make this toy. He made me curious and I said yes to the invitation. Le Chat was picked out to be "vinylized" since the cat has a great personality, that would be strong enough to stand on his own in a 3D world.
5) I know that you love cats, is our Le Chat inspired by one of yours?
There's always a bit of Noodles in all my cat characters, but this one was inspired by a dog. An Afghan hound, to be more precise. I saw one in my neighborhood and watched his long wavy hair. It made me think about people 'molding' animals into a shape that we think as beautiful and it made me think about Persian cats as well. (Although there's a lot to be said about the human influence on animal looks, it's not exactly what I wanted to get into). An image of a cat with long hair appeared before my minds eye. Sitting straight, and a bit grumpy looking, in contrast with it's elegant filaments as if it was unhappy with his own appearance. 'Le Chat Domestique' or 'The Domestic Cat', a surreal portrait of a house cat was born.
6) I know that you love to wander in flea markets all over the world and you can boast an incredible collection of vintage toys and mascots, postcards, matchboxes and more. Which are your favorite treasures in your Wunderkammer?
I have so many favorites! I do like my little plastic polar bear on ski's as much as I like this set of cheaply made, pipe smoking Easter bunnies or this set of fluffy ducks with guitars and silly hats. They all have personality.
7) Which one of your creature you think would be a good companion for Le Chat?
Another animal could work or perhaps a snowmen or something dead-ish, skeleton-like. But let's bring Le Chat into the world first, shall we?
8) You are a Dutch artist from Amsterdam, but you’re art is very well known in America as well. Are most of your collectors are European or Americans?
I think it's a 50/50 mix that leans a bit more to the US side since I show there the most.
9) Your works are always a composition of figures and lettering, in English, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, French, Dutch and many others. How do you choose with language would fit for a specific artworks?
I first come up with a title, than translate it in various languages and than see what feels/fits best.
Thank You for your time Femke!
More pictures below of Femke's visit to Pretty In Plastic Studios - pulled a hot le chat AP right off the press for her!