It's hardly a surprise to see wall projections or flat screens filling up museum walls as canvases. More surprising, perhaps, are the ways in which some artists are using video animation to explore their work in traditional mediums. Dutch artist Jacco Olivier uses short films to do just that.
His subjects range from a girl on a beach adjusting her swimming suit to the gyrations of the galaxies, while his fusion of narrative and painterly abstraction recalls the work of Jackson Pollock and Stanley Kubrick. His exhibition Liquid Painting, Liquid Time opens at the IMA February 12.
Olivier, 43, answered the following questions by email while at home in Amsterdam:
NUVO: You describe yourself as a painter first and foremost. How did you come to use video animation to illustrate your paintings?
Jacco Olivier: At the turn of the century I was making big paintings on which I could work for a very long time, painting layer over layer. If one part of the painting looked good, another part didn't.
I began to investigate that by taking photographs — slides, we weren't digital yet — of the areas of the painting that I liked. Projecting those slides in the evenings in my studio I saw that they showed much more of what I am after than the paintings. So instead of the paintings I showed my slides.
But a sequence of slides in a slide projector gives this annoying "tjick-tjick" sound. Fading the slides one into the other on a computer solved that problem and opened up a lot of possibilities. Suddenly I had something like an animation. An animation made from a painter's perspective.
NUVO: Some of your works involve sound. How does sound work in relation to your compositions?
Olivier: I use sound for different reasons; sometimes a work needs sound to give a forward motion or a different direction to the narrative, or to add to the right atmosphere, or as clue between scenes. I found myself using less and less sound though.
NUVO: Would you describe Liquid Painting, Liquid Time as more of a retrospective or as an exhibition of new work?
Olivier: Maybe more as a retrospective in the sense that it gives an overview. A museum show is a perfect opportunity to show older and newer works side by side. A gallery show is more about the newest work and about one or two ideas. With a museum show like this I can show works from 2006 next to works of 2016 which reveals more long-term themes and ideas.
NUVO: Is there a particular work that you are showing in this exhibition that you are really excited about?
Olivier: I am excited about all of them, but if I have to name one I think it would be "Revolution" a 24-minute film loop of a galaxy. The first few minutes are still figurative — planets and stars — but then it continues in abstract colors, dots and drips of paint, and it all still very much read[s] as a galaxy. I have lived out my paint fetish to the full for this work.
But then again...I think my work "Transition" works very well as well, on a different level, as my first real moving painting instead of an animation film. In that sense every work on [display is] a special thing.
NUVO: You said in an interview with Blouin Art Info that Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Ridley Scott are the filmmakers that you most admire. Can you tell me which films of theirs you most admire?
Olivier: Like almost everybody else I really enjoyed The Shining from Kubrick, Blade Runner from Scott and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Just like the images of the Hubble telescope, [they are] all part of my canon I think, one way or another it will resonate through in my work probably.
NUVO: What's your newest project?
Olivier: My newest project is a 26 meter (85 feet) wall projection in the emergency room of the Academical Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam that has to be finished at the end of this summer. I am also making a work for the Cleveland Clinic's new cancer building.
I'm very excited about these opportunities. It's proven that if you have good art on the walls in waiting areas, the perceived waiting time drops. Art can work on all kind of levels in those environments.
NUVO: It occurred to me, thinking of your homeland and the major importance of The Netherlands in the Renaissance, that we might be on the verge of a renaissance in terms of how we look at motion pictures. I'm thinking of 3D headsets that are starting to come onto the market. Would you ever consider doing some kind of 3D film animation of your work?
Olivier: I like the idea that we might be on a verge of a renaissance in terms of how we look at pictures. And maybe it is true measured on the incredible amount of pictures taken every second around the world. That must have an influence somewhere. But only time will tell.
Regarding 3D; I have tried 3D but I prefer the painterly plane of 2D. The imaginary space in 2D is much vaster than the imposed space in 3D. 2D is just more believable and has endless possibilities.
Having said that; at the moment I am looking into the use of the Oculus Rift 3D glasses.