One to Watch

Roos van der Vliet

Roos van der Vliet is an emerging artist living in Arhem, Netherlands. She earned a BFA from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arhem. Roos is concerned with the human condition, particularly with how living in such a large and historied world affects our identities. She paints stunning photorealist portraits of young women she identifies with in an effort to resolve these feelings of anonymity and alienation. By focusing on small details and expressions, she finds a common understanding between two unique individuals.

Roos has participated in exhibitions and art fairs across the Netherlands. Most recently, her works were shown at the the Museum Mohlmann in Appingedam and the Hofstede Gallery in Geersdijk, Netherlands.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

The major theme in my work must be alienation. If you search for that word on the world wide web, you’d find different meanings, but to me it’s mostly about the feeling of being a stranger in a world that was already in existence for billions of years, while you weren’t. You’re born and have to cope with it, do as others do, with only one chance to get it right. It’s a big world with a lot of individuals, and everyone is different and unique. This is wonderful, but to a certain extent it can also be frightening, because it makes you anonymous. While painting, I’m trying to decrease this feeling of alienation and anonymity by painting every detail of a face, by looking both myself and my models in the eye, which seems to give me more control over the work.

The models I choose remind me of myself. I’m creating a group of women who are alike, because we humans aren’t as different from each other as we might think. Therefore I love the idea of doppelgangers, soul mates, and twin souls.

Humans tend to differentiate groups based on religion, race, or political view, which is something I absolutely disagree with and which can even be dangerous, but it’s understandable in a way. It simply feels more comfortable if you know you’re not alone on this planet, if you fit in a group.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

That must have been the moment when this teacher of mine in art school, named Rinke Nijburg, told me to start painting with acrylics instead of oil paint. Although I didn’t really feel like it, because I thought that the way I wanted to paint could only be achieved through oil, I did what he told me. And it turned out to be exactly what I needed. This paint did exactly what I wanted! I could paint in multiple layers, wet and dry, could paint soft focus or very sharp, and the colors would stay bright instead of melting together till it would be a dirty brownish color all over the canvas (which always happened at a certain point and which used to frustrate me).

Although my choice to paint in acrylics still gets questioned sometimes (which annoys me quite a bit), I think it’s the perfect medium for me. What I can do with acrylics, I could never do in oil, or with a pencil for that matter, or with watercolors, or ballpoints. Everyone should find their own perfect medium to work with. I’m still grateful that my teacher stimulated me to at least try it, and to break down my preconceptions.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I need music. In fact, I can’t work in silence. I choose music intuitively based on the stage of painting I’m in. When starting a new work, I often listen to classical pieces, like Philip Glass or Wim Mertens. When my painting is developing, I switch to dark music like Soap & Skin, Patrick Wolf, and My Brightest Diamond, and when a painting needs to be finished because I’m done with it, I listen to Klezmer or very loud electronic music. I need all these different types of music.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

That would be The disasters of War 13 by Gottfried Helnwein. It’s an unbelievable, very touching painting, and Helnwein is the absolute master of realism in my opinion. His works are shocking yet very vulnerable, and his technique is almost unreal. If I would have this piece of art on my wall, I would probably sit in front of it for months and just stare at it, doing nothing.

Who are your favorite writers?

I have several, but my all time favorite writer must be Donna Tartt. Her book The Little Friend changed everything. It’s an extremely beautiful but very slow book about a young girl trying to find out who killed her little brother. The way Donna Tartt describes the landscape of a dry and hot little village in the USA and all the people trying to live their lives was so haunting that I actually started dreaming about it. The whole atmosphere of this book was with me during the day. It was back then when I decided to start painting my 13-year-old younger sister, who reminded me of the character of the book. And painting her got me to the point where I am now still. Books are wonderful because they have the power to inspire me on a whole new level. The Hours by Michael Cunningham, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Way the Crow Flies by Ann Marie MacDonald, and The Discovery of Heaven from Harry Mulisch are also on my list of books that have influenced me a lot.