Dutch Artist Talks Colour and Tulips
Born and raised in the Netherlands – a country famous for its flower-clad canal houses and mosaic tulip fields – artist and designer Hilde Koenders works with colour on an almost instinctive level. Exploring the visual effects of dyed tulip petals on light, Koenders honours and gives new life to one of nature’s most colourful expressions. With a rich creative background ranging from fashion to interior design, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate and Frame #103 cover artist speaks to us about colour and the many faces of her most recent work, Tulip Mania.
The decision to use the tulip as the flower of choice in your work is not surprising given the context of the Dutch Design Week. Beyond stereotypical 'Dutch-ness', what does the tulip flower symbolize for you? Hilde Koenders: I started working with tulips as a colour experiment where I tested the colour absorption of various flowers. The tulip was the best tested. Because of its colour absorption, the veins of the tulip petal are made visible, producing a fine and very sharp structure on the petal. After my experiment, I started reading about the origin of the tulip. The rich symbolism and history inspired me to keep working with the tulip as both a material and muse. I also really like the archetypical shape of the tulip - any kid can draw one!
The faces in your work have very distinct expressions – some are happy and serene, others are jeering or even a little angry looking – were the emotions portrayed premeditated, or the result of a spontaneous process? It’s difficult for me to create a premeditated expression. What I do is I form different shapes and compositions by placing the petals on a light box and take pictures of each step. I'm getting better at recognizing the various expressions while I work, but most of the time I see what happens when I watch the images appear on the screen and I react on that. I choose to work with human expressions to show the embittered era of tulip mania; I like the contrast between euphoria and happiness, darkness and madness. These juxtapositions excite me.
What was your greatest source of inspiration – beside the flower – for Tulip Mania? I'm inspired by the viewer’s emotional reaction and interaction with my work. I try to create an experience with each of my installations. For this series I printed the images on large pieces of silk and carefully hung them together so that when people passed through the installation, the material gently moved along with them.
How does the use of colour influence your work? Does it take a primary or secondary role? It all started with my graduation project where I designed an installation in which I lay nineteen white tulips on little hospital beds and infused them with colour. The flower carcasses were treated and nursed back to life with pigmented drops. The transformation from white to colour was a way to show and reinterpret the process of a dying flower: instead of fading away, the flower becomes even more colourful and beautiful. The use of colour was a method to visualize this idea. Tulip Mania works in a similar way. I use colour as an instrument to showcase the veins of the petal and to highlight the beauty of the flower. The transparency and texture of the dried petals and the colours that are formed by overlapping them allow me to zoom in on nature while giving the colour of each petal more depth.
What would make an ideal Ninety Minutes of Frame experience for you? Being able to look through the eyes of other artists for ninety minutes and being surprised and energized by their work.
Images courtesy of Hilde Koenders