Dutch artists Rutger Termohlen and Collin van der Sluijs have been collaborating for about five years. Both formally trained in several disciplines, they have learned to use their skill to push their practice beyond what they have been taught. Collin and Rutgerâ€™s collective work pushes their own boundaries creating work how they want and according to their own rule.
When Collin and Rutger collaborate, one experiences a work in which a shared, give and take approach yields a completely unique, eclectic, yet harmonious final product. Witnessing the developed style of two very individual and versatile artists merged in an experimental and often spontaneous process, is inspiring in its affirmation that anything is possible, anything can work and the possibilities are endless.
â€œWe see a lot of people who can paint one character or something and repeat that a thousand times, thatâ€™s not what interests us to be honest, we like to take risks.â€
Format: How and when did you start collaborating?
Collin and Rutger: We started with collaborations about four or five years ago. We have always painted separately but we discovered that we share a lot of the same thoughts about subjects. And itâ€™s very hard to collaborate with artists, some people canâ€™t handle it when you paint parts over in their work, but we give each other freedom in the process.
Format: Are there any areas of your practice that remain solo? Â
Collin and Rutger: From time to time we both have individual projects or exhibitions; itâ€™s not always good to collaborate with everything, otherwise it becomes more a kind of trick than a spontaneous process. For us, thatâ€™s what collaboration is about – a certain moment in a painting-process when you have the chemistry and go with a feeling.
Format: How much do you think collaborations with each other, and other artists affect your style? Do you share ideas and technique?
Collin and Rutger: As long as you maintain your own methods of making your work itâ€™s good. You can also learn a lot from each other in a positive way, the other can come up with ideas or images you would never think about when you are working alone. When we collaborate we use the same materials so there is a kind of harmony in a work.
Format: As your work develops in your collaborations, do you feel like your styles have become more similar, or do you work to maintain individual contributions to each piece?
Collin and Rutger: In the past few years we have done a lot of collaborations. The strength lies in the fact that you have two individuals behind the work, and each one of us contributes personal elements that make it stronger as we challenge each other. Rutger is still a top drawer with pen and ink, I could never reach that level of drawing and thatâ€™s good. Otherwise it wouldnâ€™t be challenging to work together.
Format: Do you ever work with rules or guidelines in your collaborations?Â Do you discuss the concept or is the work spontaneous?
Collin and Rutger: Sometimes we come up with a situation that happened and use that as a starting point. We both start working on the piece, and when one of us takes a break the other will keep on working. We operate with a back and forth process in a certain way. When we work together for a couple days there are spontaneous moments too, those are the greatest moments.
Format: What is the biggest challenge in working collaboratively?
Collin and Rutger: The question says it already, the challenge. Things go well and not so well during the process. Itâ€™s up to us to work with what happens during the process to make the best out of it, which is not always easy of course. You have to be satisfied at the end, and working together to get to that moment of satisfaction is the biggest challenge.
Format: Both of you have a very eclectic style, from highly detailed sketches to crude bright lines, drips and collage, all which seem to function so well as a unified style. Â Do you find solo work to be less interesting or dynamic?
Collin and Rutger: It depends, we did some collaborations that didnâ€™t work out, itâ€™s quite natural that it doesnâ€™t work sometimes so at that point youâ€™re more satisfied with your solo work. But when the â€œmagicâ€ happens in a collaboration, itâ€™s hard to make that powerful work by yourself.
Format: Can you talk a bit about your influences and training? What are some things you like to reference in your work? Favorite techniques? Biggest inspirations?
Collin and Rutger: We both did years of study, and attended art academy as well, but we found that it starts when you walk out of there. You have to find a way to do things yourself and in your own way, and not necessarily how you are instructed. We both also have a background in old techniques, so we like paintings with a craftsmanship. Inspiration comes from positive and negative situations in our lives, the people around us and small things in daily life. We both paint almost every day, so in this way we train ourselves, itâ€™s important to rediscover yourself from time to time. We see a lot of people who can paint one character or something and repeat that a thousand times, thatâ€™s not what interests us to be honest, we like to take risks.
Format: Outside of the gallery, where has your work appeared?
Collin and Rutger: Our work has been shown in Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Rotterdam, New York, Groenige Museum Brugge, Glaspaleis Heerlen, Maastricht, Eindhoven,Antwerp, Breda, Florence Biennale Italy, New Jersey, Zurich, Stedelijk museum Den Bosch, Helsingborg museum, and group exhibitions during the years, also different international magazine publications. Last month a videoclip was released on MTV and other channels, we painted all the elements and Rutger made the concept.
As well as all the painting and illustration, Collin has been involved with galleries for the past seven years, the last half of which has been spent in Maastricht as owner of Galerie Groen Licht, a gallery for contemporary art in the city-centre.
Format: Could you talk a bit about your gallery and whatâ€™s going on in the art scene in the Netherlands right now.
Collin and Rutger: The gallery started in 2004 in the centre of Maastricht, a city in the south of the Netherlands. We present work from the younger generation of artists, but there is always work from us in the permanent collection. Itâ€™s good to learn and experience different things like organizing exhibitions or giving lectures at the art-academy so that youâ€™re not limited to one thing. Right now there are interesting younger artists in the Netherlands who are making a name for themselves, thatâ€™s a good aspect in the current art-scene.
Format: What could you see yourselves doing if not painting together?
Collin and Rutger: Thatâ€™s a hard question, maybe curating exhibitions, publishing, or one of our other side-projects besides painting and illustration.
Rutger and Collin return to Paris next month with fellow dutch artists Bitches In Control for a new exhibition titled Malaise Hollandais. The opening will take place on February the 28th and runs until April 4th at Gallery Issue.