Q&A with Arie Hellendoorn: exploring the human form - Art Collector

Arie Hellendoorn in his studio. Courtesy: Syllivan+Strumpf, Zetland

Arie Hellendoorn’s latest exhibition Looking for the Oasis at Sullivan+Strumpf continues his practice of interrogating the conventions of portraiture and representations of the human form. See the exhibition before it closes this Saturday 13 June 2015.

Your works are immaculately and intricately composed. What’s your process? How do these works come about?

The paintings begin with a very basic line drawing in order to give me some structure to work with, then there is a process of improvisation where I begin to build up the layers of paint and mark making – clusters of lines, dots, blobs, until I have covered the entire surface with image. All of my drawing and testing is done directly onto the surface of the painting, which allows the work to evolve over time. I am actively making decisions throughout the development of the painting right up until the work is finished.

You often paint images of characters- who are they? Do you know them?

The paintings are not of anyone in particular. I use source images and outlines at the beginning for composition of the figures, but these are discarded after, as I am more interested in what I can do with them as paintings and images than with who they are. I find that I like to use very classical art poses or very stereotypical portrait shots for the composition structure.

Your current focus is on representations of the human form. This has compelled artists for centuries. What is it about the human form that compels you personally?

Painting the human form in art has a long history in art, and I like how my practice sits within that context of history. Also the human figure is a highly recognisable and accessible subject to work with. Whether you know a lot about art or it’s your first time looking at a painting, you are able to recognise and possibly relate to some aspects of the work.

You say you’re more concerned with what happens inside the human head than what lies on the surface, and this clearly comes across in your work. What are the challenges with conveying that which cannot be seen?

I think that challenge is one of the key attractions of portraying what happens inside the human head via an artistic process. How else can you display the interactions between the inner and the outer, and the inner processes themselves? Other mechanisms become very technical and lose their appeal or immediate connect. I guess though, the only way for me to convey these things within my work is to relate them to myself, and my direct interactions with other people, which makes the works quite personal at times, and a little challenging to work through during the art-making process.

You were recently selected by Hiromi Tango for the 2015 Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize. Tell us about this experience- how has it impacted your practice?

It was a great context for my work as it placed my practice amongst some very interesting artists making work in Australia. This award exhibition gave my work some valuable exposure in an institutional gallery environment, which I think is an important part of developing an artist profile.

What’s next?

I am currently working on a solo exhibition for Suite gallery in Wellington, New Zealand, opening in September. I’m looking forward to this- it will be my 8th exhibition with David Alsop [director of {Suite} gallery].

Emily Cones-Browne
Share this page: