Lily van der Stokker
Annual Magazine - N°5, 2012
Timothée Chaillou: Do you identify with Marnie Weber’s words: “Cute, soppy, sentimental can all be done if one extends their use. And to also balance it with an element of darkness makes the work even darker in my opinion. It is as if one is saying “everything is alright" while knowing it is not.”
Lily van der Stokker: No I don’t. In fact it irritates me when people suggest there is darkness in my work. My subject matter in the past was, and still is, sweetness, so just get used to it! There is a lot of bad in this world, I agree, but good things have a right to exist too, you know.
TC: According to Susan Sontag, the camp ‘is the love of what is not natural, of the device and for exaggeration’. It is ‘a style of excess, garish contrast, assumed ridiculousness, theatricality of a deliberately bad taste which blurs the clear boundaries of the beautiful and the ugly, the convenient and the unsuitable, but also the copy and the original’. Is this vision relevant in your art?
LvdS: I don’t think my work is camp. The blurring of boundaries, yes, that is where beauty and ugliness are not being judged positive or negative anymore; they exist in a sort of no man’s land where esthetics don’t apply anymore.
TC: Could you please talk about the theatrical aspect of your work and its baroque quality?
LvdS: I am interested in the power of the theatrical itself. In the Baroque, it was used to make people believe in the splendor of the divine. I think in all of us there is - rather than a belief - still a longing to be in awe of something beyond our rational self. I like holiness as a fashion. I like rays and the curl and the halo as ways of moving attention.
TC: Jeff Koons says that ‘people in search of luxury are like insatiable alcoholics who lose all control up to depravity’. Can an object of temptation and desire visually poison us?
LvdS: The opposite. I saw an artist one time make a series of small paintings of the same ashtrays in different colored backgrounds. In a world full of busy people, sometimes it is nice to focus on a small obsession and take away the smartness, the hype and the poison. Or accept the poison, but make it small.
TC: Do you think that your work could clash against another art movement? (e.g.: Arte Povera vs. Pop Art)
LvdS: I am kind of a playful conceptual feminist, but most of the time I am nostalgic about our past art heroes. And I am afraid that I am a softie. My work lingers more around ideas of comfort and caring. Like in some of my old favorite small magic marker drawings, “Don’t worry, nothing will happen” or “Good old Abstract Art” (1992). Now, in my studio we make the “Don’t worry” text into a larger canvas. It will be interesting to meditate on this one for a while.
TC: In what way would you say that your work is related to naivety?
LvdS: A text in one of my drawings says “The Bloom girls sell art because they are sexy”. They were two Dutch gallerists in Amsterdam in the 90s. After the feminism of the 80s, people were not used to business women (gallerists) wearing mini skirts. What do you think, is selling because of being sexy regarded minor than by rational arguments?
TC: It should not. What do you think of Nicolas Bourriaud describing your work this way: “Lily van der Stokker’s wall drawings have been designed under the law of assumption: love must be some sort of gas, it always goes upwards.”
LvdS: He is nice. To be so formal about love… But he caught me there, because I was not aware of doing that in my “Love-Goodness” artworks. Direction however, interests me on the flat surface, how our eyes are being moved from nowhere to the meaningful.
In 1990, I made a small painting with the image of a bubbly blue cloud and arrows pointing up with a small pink text next to it saying “suggested direction”. It is not that I know where to go, but it gives me some comfort to imagine that I do.
And another text in a drawing from ’93 reads “Why do means of transportation go forward?” And that all text goes to the right, you wonder…
TC: How do you choose the words that you use? Do you think that your series are more based on words than patterns?
LvdS: It is more about horizontal wandering around of plotless continuous abstraction, of text with a suspicious status.
TC: Is your work dealing with mindless happiness?
LvdS: Yes, as in a drugs, religion, new age, ice cream combinations. The sweetness is killing you.
TC: Why do you choose to work in a way that your production is recognizable at first sight?
LvdS: Yes, it is easy to make your own Lily van der Stokker drawing now. And you know, I think sometimes I could sell my whole research including the network to one person of the next generation in search of an interesting career. The new owner would have a goal, a built-in mystery and a vocabulary.
TC: In your drawings, Happiness is opposed to Sadness, Good to Evil, Beauty to Ugliness. Why choosing to illustrate such a Manichean vision of the world?
Do you think that all forms of embodied Happiness should generate Ugliness?
LvdS: My art career started around 1990. At that time, I more or less signed all my work with the word ‘good’ or the artwork was made around the word “good”. In 1991, my first exhibition in a museum was titled “good wall paintings”. I like my art to surprise you with honesty and simplicity and with subject matter that seems so everyday that we forgot these are essential to life, - like happiness, beauty, pleasure and colors.
I researched ugliness too from the very beginning of my career. In the past few years, I made some interesting ugly wall paintings. Now I had enough of that. It is a bit confusing and I think it will be easier to focus on beauty again for a while.
TC: What do “girlish colors” mean and symbolize for you?
LvdS: As a woman, I like to be an obedient follower. I create happiness in the home and I am not focused on intelligence. In my art, I search for those extremes. The female is loveable and sweet. It makes women special and unique and all women should be getting very well paid for that.
TC: Why is it important for you to enlarge female clichés?
LvdS: Because they are fantastic material to work with and as a feminist I am endlessly grateful for them.