Kees Holterman Interview - The Hopper Prize

Kees Holterman

Kees Holterman on the cathartic experience of a recent exhibition, painting & drawing as tools for communication, & working on multiple pieces at once.

How did you get into making art?

Growing up my mother was always painting in her home studio. She’d let me join in and paint and draw next to her. I think from there, I started noticing art as a force in the world – that it was all over in so many different contexts.

Skateboarding was also a huge influence. I used to flip through pages of Thrasher Magazine as a little kid and I was obsessed with all the logos on the peoples’ t-shirts and skate decks.

I read an Ed Templeton interview , I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, about how he approaches skateboard graphics and art and all that and I became so determined to start my own skate company. I couldn’t get enough of art and it’s relation to skateboarding. I thought it was just the coolest thing in the world (and I still do).

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new body of paintings for a couple group shows I have coming up. One in March at MK Apothecary Gallery in Collingswood, New Jersey and the other in September at Pulp in Holyoke, Massachusettes.

I’d like for both of these shows to display all new pictures – it’s something to keep me busy.

I like that I can utilize painting and drawing as tools for communication.

Kees Holterman

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I feel like I started a new chapter in life, and so I needed to make work in response to that.

I had heart surgery in October 2022 and up until that point all of my paintings were focused on dealing with that milestone – coping with my emotions and really looking into myself and the narratives and patterns throughout my life.

Before my surgery I was able to have a Solo Exhibtion and residency displaying all those works down in Oklahoma City at Artspace at Untitled. I had such a cathartic and fulfilling experience down there and it just felt like that chapter ended and I could move on to new imagery and a new body of work. Once I made it through surgery and fully recovered, I was ready for something new.

So now I’m developing new works – they’re still narrative, though sometimes the story doesn’t cut through until after the pictures are finished. I’m not entirely sure exactly what I’m saying just yet, but I like that I can utilize painting and drawing as tools for communication. It’s such a priviledge.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

Generally I work on one picture from start to finish – really labor through the process and the image itself. These days I’ve been approaching things more broadly – I like to have a few canvases going at once . I’ll bounce around between each piece and develope them over a longer amount of time. I like to hide them away in a corner of my studio and then put them back on the wall from time to time — see if anything new comes about from looking at it after some time away. I think this has helped me become more comfortable with the work I’m making – it feels less impulsive, a little more considered or intentional.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I’ll start the day with some tidying and answering emails and shipping out any merchandise or work that needs to go. After all the clerical work is done I’ll just start working on the painting from the night before. I like to listen to movies or television while I’m working. I think the dialogue in the background adds another narrative element to my thinking while I’m developing work. I tend to paint and draw with narrative in mind – I like telling stories – lived experience, books, television and movies are all thrown into the mix.

Who are your favorite artists?

Horace Pippin, Ben Shahn, Joan Brown, Jessie Homer French, Lee Miller, Bill Traylor, Frida Khalo, Diego Rivera, Ed Templeton, Margaret Kilgalen, Piero Della Francesca, Saul Steinberg, David Hockney, Philip Guston…I think I could probably keep going on and on with this list but these are my favorite artists and the ones that have had the biggest influence and impact on me.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

A mixture of books, exhibitions, and the internet.

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network