Interview: Marc Olthoff
Luca Curci talks with Marc Olthoff during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, the third appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
“In 2012, after working 21 years in industry (as a technology director at Unilever) I decided to follow my passion and switch to photography. Realizing that I lacked some of the skills required to produce the fine-art images I wanted to, I went ‘back to school’ and graduated after 2 years as best of the class from the Fotovakschool, Rotterdam in 2015. My main strength is the creative ability to imagine and design images that are tantalizing with the technical skills to realize them. I try to put a story into each image to make the viewer think and wonder about what she/he is actually seeing and what it means. My technical and engineering background is helpful in realizing the intended images”.
LUCA CURCI – What is art for you?
MARC OLTHOFF – To me personally, artworks are man-made original objects specifically made to trigger emotions in the persons looking at it. Though typically people associate art with positive emotions, in my view that is by no means a requirement, a necessity.
LC – According to you, what makes a good photo? Which details do you focus on?
MO – To me personally, a good photo (or painting for that sake) shows a story in 1 frame. If it is just beautiful (a palm tree at sunset), I lose interest quickly. A good artwork triggers my own fantasy; for example through unexpected elements; strange twists, missing information, etc. When seeing works like this, my mind wonders what happened, what will happen next, etc. Images like this can capture my attention and imagination for a long time. Hence In my work I focus on depicting part of a story. I deliberately put elements in the image to stimulate the fantasy of the viewer. I may also leave out some elements for the same purpose. I hope that every viewer completes the story with her/his own thoughts. To me an image is successful if different viewers come up with different explanations or stories.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
MO – My inspirations can come from all angles. Some images are inspired by something I saw, others by a fantastic location I stumbled on. Sometimes an idea just pops up in my head, and sometimes I make a mistake in a project that results in an inspiring image.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
MO – In my early years, I regularly used nude models in my stories. At an exhibition, someone challenged me, why? I realized that I did not have an answer. After a few days of thinking about this, I realized that I did this because it was easy, as I did not have to take clothing into account. I then decided to try working more with dressed models and found that the correct choice of clothing enhances the images. So currently I only use nude persons if it really adds to the story (as with The Thinker).
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
MO – It is a combination. It almost always starts instinctively/emotionally. The ‘big idea’ of a new picture almost always is. But then because of the nature of photography where everything that you see on the image must be arranged/bought/etc. it turns into a reasoned/management phase where I need to arrange the models, clothes, location, etc. In this phase, the small details are decided. To give an example; take the image “Spotlight” currently in the exhibition in Venice. This is part of a series of ‘still lives’, that are not “still” as the objects in the image take on a character in a story. The initial idea of using a tulip as a lamp-post shining on a small plant was born quickly. The challenges were to bend a tulip into the shape I had in mind. After a few weeks of experimenting and researching, a flower salesman helped me with a ”trick” that worked. So the tulip’s arc is not photoshopped, but the actual shape. The second challenge was to mount a small lightbulb into the head of the tulip. As with a lamp post, it needs to radiate light. The tulip itself is actually uniform Yellow. The colors you see come from the light shining through the petals of the flower. Where there are more petals, it is darker, where there are fewer, it is lighter. The yellow glow on the standing leaf comes from the light emitted by the flower that shines/radiates to the leaf.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
MO – I love all art festivals. I always enjoy seeing the work of other artists, no matter which discipline; and often I am jealous of their creations. Typically after visiting a festival I feel humbled but full of inspiration and ideas. I truly hope that the worst of the corona times are behind us and that we all can once again enjoy more physical festivals.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
MO – As I never tell what I see in one of my images or what I “mean” with it I leave it to the observer to answer that question.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
MO – It is a great platform. It is fantastic that it transcends the traditional boundaries between the various art forms. Not only is this inclusive, but I am convinced that different art forms can inspire and learn from each other. And then it offers great opportunities for artists to showcase their art, and don’t we all want our art to be seen?
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MO – For me personally certainly. I am very honored to be awarded winner in your 9th international contest and ITSLIQUID has helped me to reach a much larger audience than I had.