Interview With Merijn Hos

When you invite an artist like Merijn Hos for a solo exhibition at the gallery, you never know what to expect. What you do know is that it will be so much better than you could ever think of. This is also the case with his coming solo exhibition titled Image of a Memory, opening on Friday the 28th of June. This ‘flowery themed’ exhibition will definitely be a good way to start the summer season.

In the run up to his solo show we talk with Merijn Hos about his path to being an artist, what role music plays in his life and the overlap of work and private life.

When people ask what you ‘do’, how do you answer?

This is a bit of a complicated question as I feel I’m in between different disciplines. I work as an illustrator, artist and sometimes as an art director. I make commercial and editorial illustrations. I draw, make sculptures and installations, work on animation and film projects with my brother and I sometimes create identities. I like to say that I make visual stuff.

Can you tell the story of how you became an artist?

My roots are in Twente, which is in the eastern part of the Netherlands. This is where I grew up skateboarding and doing graffiti in the mid 90s. Skateboarding especially played a big role in me becoming a creative person. Living in an area where there were only a handful of skateboarders and having few skate spots made us a close and innovative group of youngsters. We were outsiders that lived in our own world. It was a beautiful time in my life. My parents always stimulated my creative ambitions and took my younger brothers and I to a lot of museums as kids and we loved it.

After a few attempts at “normal” schools, I knew I needed to go to art school. Next to being into graffiti, I was working on paintings in my bedroom influenced by German expressionism. My parents took us to a show of Der Blaue Reiter of Wassily Kandinsky and friends. I was hooked on that for a small period. I tried to make my own versions within that style, I did the same with Egon Schiele and Jean Michel Basquiat, who were my favourite artists as a teenager. That stuff got me into the Utrecht School of Arts. I wanted to study Fine Arts but my mother told me that I would be better off with illustration because that way I could make a decent living after I graduated. In the end it took me six years to graduate instead of four. I was studying fine arts within the illustration course and that wasn’t really a match.

I think that attitude is pretty significant for what I do today. I got out of art school in 2004 and immediately started working on commissioned work that suited me well. I created a situation somehow in which clients ask me for what I do best then I create artwork that is somewhere between art and design. I feel comfortable in that twilight zone. I’m approaching art spaces in a similar way, I look at the space and think of it as a blank canvas on which I’m going to present my project. Beforehand I think carefully about how everything should look and feel and try to create a perfect experience.

Where do you get your inspiration from? What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work

I’m constantly listening to music. I love a lot of genres and every genre fits a time of the day. When I feel nostalgic I listen to Bon Iver, James Blake, Blood Orange that kind of stuff. I like Mac DeMarco, lots of other indie bands too. When I need energy I play new hip hop stuff like Travis Scott or 90s hip hop. I also like Frank Ocean a lot. I love to go out dancing all night on good electronic music from time to time. Late at night I might listen to things like Joep Beving. The artist that I love the most at the moment is MorMor. His sound and lyrics are off the hook.

Over the last year I have also been looking a lot at photography, especially to learn about light which is key when working with live action film. Film is something I’m really interested in at the moment.

What inspires me most is life in general. Everything I see, feel and experience. That’s the core of everything I do.

You have been working in the field of art and design for quite some time now. How do you keep challenging yourself and pushing yourself into new directions?

It goes naturally, this is what I do. I’m passionate about what I do and constantly curious about new ideas. When I find something new I’m excited about and live with it for a while, I subconsciously start thinking of the next thing I want to pursue and start to develop it behind the scenes. This keeps the job interesting and fresh.

What advise would you give to new graduates who wish to work as an artist, illustrator or designer?

Quit if your heart is not in it. Otherwise dive into it head first, be passionate, work hard, believe in yourself and be yourself. A career develops over years of long and hard work, not over months. Take time to create your own ideas and visual language. Be patient. Don’t follow trends. If that’s what you do you are always steps behind.

Your studio is located underneath your home. How do you separate work and private life?

I don’t. Work is life and life is work. It has always been like that. Honestly I never think of work as work but as something I just do and love and I think you can feel that if you walk through my space. The house and studio breath me and my work, it is my world. I live for it, I’m the type that forgets to send invoices.

What is on your checklist for creating a studio space that you enjoy working in?

For me personally, first, keep everything organized so you are not distracted  by this noise. Second, surround yourself with things that inspire you and feel at home in the space so you can put in that long hours of work.

What are your biggest challenges in creating art and how do you deal with them?

The biggest challenge is not to repeat myself. That is also the reason I don’t do too many exhibitions, I want to come up with something new, personal and original that excites me. I see exhibitions as personal projects to express my thoughts.

You have a solo exhibition coming up at Mini Galerie titled Image of a Memory. What is the show about and how did you come up with the idea?

Image of a Memory depicts melancholic feelings in a semi-abstract poetic way, through flowers and everyday objects. The flowers in this exhibition symbolize human interaction. At some point flowers wilt but always seed offspring and bloom again. Life.

A small band ‘Zeeland’ for whom you have designed the album cover will play a few songs during the opening of your solo exhibition. What role does music play in your day to day life and for your work process?

Yes, the Amsterdam / LA based duo Zeeland will perform a couple of songs during the opening which I’m very excited about. I discovered their music about a year ago, when the guys indeed reached out to me to design album artwork for them. There is something special to their sound and I think it fits very well in the context of the exhibition. One of the works in Image of a Memory will be a video piece that I make in collaboration with my brother Jurriaan that accompanies their upcoming single Show Me.

In general, music plays a huge role in my life. When I like an album, I will play it to death and it becomes more or less the soundtrack of a certain period. I love that. Music gets me through the day, it gets me in the right mood, gives me energy when I need it and I listen to anything that works.

Lastly, is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about that you can tell us about?

More film projects, I’d really love to explore the medium more and see if I can translate the feel of my current work into real life imagery. I would also love to see my work more in a social context, a total design for a restaurant for example. The absolute dream is still to design a hot air balloon.

Photography by Pierre Zylstra

Merijn Hos’ solo exhibition Image of a Memory will be supported by Raket and Distels, a flower garden and studio close to Rotterdam.