Folkert de jong is undoubtedly one of the most popular contemporary Dutch artists in the world. His sculptural installations represent many aspects of the human condition in a theatrical and ironic way.
In more than 20 years of career, Folkert De Jong has won several international awards such as the “Prix de Rome” and his works have been featured in places such as the Moca in Los Angeles or the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Materials such as polyurethane and Styrofoam are often used in his works and often references the uncanny and takes influence from the horror aesthetics and the history of conflict, war and politics.
His unmistakable style and his ability to deal with certain topics in a crystalline way are inspiration for a new generation of young creatives who see the artistic language of Folkert De Jong as an authentic investigation of the human psyche.
Editor: Thank you for accepting our request. It is a great honour for us to have this opportunity.
Folkert De Jong: Thank you
Editor: Looking at your works, makes me come to mind films like Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick or all the filmography by Peter Greenaway. A grotesque touch to represent the reality and taboos of our society. Is it right to define your art in this way. How would you explain your works to a person who sees your sculptures and installations for the first time?
Folkert De Jong: The first meeting of the public with my work should be visually inviting. The same feeling when you walk into a candy store, and your senses are thrilled with color and texture. This deliberate use of these factors is because I want to get the visitor out of his / her comfort zone. Because after this explosion of figuration and color, the content is often rather dramatic and heavy on the hand. By taking the audience out of the usual art-viewing mode, I actually want to make difficult subjects like death and human drama negotiable.
Editor: Tell me a something about yourself. When was art discovered by Folkert de Jong? Did you discover it at a very young age or did you discover it over time?
Folkert De Jong: I grew up in a working-class environment. My ancestors were all fishermen and all poor, and my grandfather who had tattoos all over his body, always said to me: when you are born a quarter, you never get to be a dollar. My family was also Catholic in a Protestant environment. My first encounter with art was through my mom and dad. They both tried to break free from the workingclass environment by developing their own creativity. My father made puppets, and my mother made wall hangings. Everyone in the village thought that was super weird, but me and my brother were completely normal. I never had the ambition to become an artist. I was more interested in becoming a soldier or a nurse. I eventually studied to work in the hospital as a nurse. But my fate has decided otherwise. I am actually partly self-taught. Later on I did have some art education. My brother became an important architect.
Editor: I read that you were born in Netherlands: How your origins influenced your work?
Folkert De Jong: A lot. Dutch people are hypocryts about their past. The fame and glory of this country is drawn with power and blood. But, on the otherhand there is an understanding that art means something important.
Editor: As an artist that explores the condition of the human being, How are you perceiving the covid-19 pandemic?
Folkert De Jong: The pandemic confirms my belief that history repeats itself over and over again, but that it is always new for the generation that is experiencing it. I was depressed at first, but suddenly I had a kind of positive explosion of ideas. I thought: “this is actually an opportunity to rise above this misery through my art”! I started working like crazy, and during that revival I looked a lot at art history, how artists in the past reacted to the sad events of their time by making very innovative art that makes people revive in a positive way. Sometimes I think I’m too idealistic, but maybe that’s for the best.
Editor: Like a skillful Plato’s demiurge, you mold the different conditions of the human being. What is matter to you? and the human being?
Folkert De Jong: Look, when I worked in the hospital as a young student, I saw that the patients were at their most vulnerable because of the failure of their body or mind. That did something to me, and the realization that you have to celebrate life, but that you can only do it fully when you can also face illness, weakness and misery. Humanity’s self-centeredness is natural. Nature, people, life and death are part of 1 revolving circle. It was only much later that I saw the relationship between my previous career choice of nurse and artist. It’s about showing and confronting your own vulnerability, and making something beautiful out of it. My intention is therefore that I know how to touch something with the public with my work, that makes them think positively about their own vulnerability and morality.
Editor: Morpheus is the God of dreams in Greek mythology. His name comes from the Greek μορφή which means “form” because he was the deity who at night took the form and characteristics of dreams. Let’s talk about the series Night Portal. Can you explain how this series of works was born? Can you explain the idea behind “Night portal sculptures”?
Folkert De Jong: Under the title “night portal” I have made a number of works that deal with the connection between man and the spiritual world. Or as you like: The world of dreams. I myself had the desire to connect myself to a spiritual world through artworks. I have made magnified replicas of healing crystals such as Bismuth which are said to protect or connect you to the spirit of nature. I had fantasies about science fiction stories and movies, where scientists try to rise above the limitations of the human body and nature as gods. That you could digitalize yourself and disappear on a hard disk for a while, until the world would be better, and then print yourself out in 3D again. I also made a display box in which you can take a seat to do a so-called teleportation. Looking at art is actually already a way to disconnect from earthly shit, and connect to something higher, right?
Editor: Do you want to give any advice to young artist who will read this interview?
Folkert De Jong: For me, being an artist is a way to be a free spirit, but the price for freedom is high, especially because the profession of artist is considered subordinate by many people, but: it also gives you a privilege, to be busy with yourself, and the world, and to be able to do and make something that benefits humanity. So that people can break free from market economy thinking. From the moment I realized that it is super cool to make art, I have looked for a way to be financially independent as much as possible, so that I could be in my studio world as much as possible. I have worked as a dishwasher, cook, gardener and so on. I trained in writing about my work, which made it easier for me to get support from institutions. I have taught myself to be communicative and to see the art market as a tool for my freedom. Try to rise above the inconveniences and keep your goal clear: we are the goddamn future!