The artist Gemma van Gennip visited The Faketory art studio last week and we had an amusing and intriguing conversation. Here are some curiosities of her life and next steps. Have a look!
”I am a painter, born in Eindhoven in 1955, now living in the South of the country and working in my studio in France. I have lived an eventful life, as a dancer, a choreographer, and now as a painter.
I stopped dancing 15 years ago due to back problems and began to paint again. To improve my technical skills I attended the Academy of arts, graduating after specialising in the portraits of Igor Verpoorten. What I wanted to express in my dance I could now express on a canvas.
I still feel like I’m dancing when I put paint on the canvas. Most of the time I just start painting and wait for a flash or intoxication, and then I’ll finish the painting in a few hours. My work is very hectic, I use wet on wet paint. If it doesn’t work I’ll remove the image and start again. I don’t measure. The anatomy isn’t always correct, but so what? I want to discover what is behind the folds, the shadow and the distortion. What is essential? What is the piece trying to say? When the painting touches on that, I know it’s complete. I prefer painting without distraction. If I try too hard, it doesn’t work out the way I intended, I just have to let go. The most beautiful comment I once received about my work was that it is lived, colourful and honest. Sometimes people send me pictures which I use as inspiration. Lately I have started making my own pictures, just snapshots in black and white. It has to be a bit ’empty’, so I can fill it with my creativity.
During my time as a dancer I met a lot of beautiful theatrical people. I still love the plush, dark dressing rooms, people with too much make-up, splendour from head to toe, Shiny. It’s like they’re wearing a mask they can take off whenever they want to. What power and guts! I love the old circus scenes, the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, the photography of Nan Golding. I admire the courage, perseverance and the openness of these works, the fragility and the battle. I am also inspired by incidences in my own life that made me who I am today. They inspire the interaction between my models and myself.
After a few years fighting and defending my topic against those who disproved of my drag queen subjects I finally got recognition last year. I had a few beautiful exhibitions. One work, depicting two lesbian girls during a protest is being displayed in Torrento, Italy, at a Human Rights Festival. Some of my works were also exhibited on the Amsterdamse roze filmdagen,Kunstforum Wurth Turnhout,musea for modern art Amsterveen, and next year there will be an exhibition in Gennep. One work gained second place in a national painting of the year competition. From 14 november my work will be displayed at an exposition in the Lellebel, where I will hand over a portrait of the owner, Hans Wijtenburg. There are also other paintings I made of the Divas who work there. I had a few beautiful interviews in newspapers and recently in a magazine called “Zij aan Zij” for lesbians. At this moment, twelve paintings are showing in the atrium of the court in Maastricht.
I don’t want to focus only on dragQueens. That’s why I attend transgender nights very regularly, to learn more about their world and try to connect with them on all kind of levels. It’s not about making typical images, but about subtlety. I make pictures of all kinds of people, of cross-dressers, of”inbetweens” and those who have already had the complete transition. Years ago I became fascinated by the androgynous man. The Punkscene. David Bowie, Sid Viscious, Lou Reed, Grace Jones and Annie Lennox.
At the beginning of next year I’ll launch my new project: Search for identity. This is in association with a video artist, a blues musician/ cross-dresser/ live performer. We have filmed two drag queens and a transgender, photographed, painted and interviewed. It’s a lovely threesome who personally came out of the closet on a older age.
After the initial exhibitions we want to go into the country and we’d love to go international. The process is still in development for my inexhaustible source of inspiration. Step by step, who knows”
Her next exposition is in Lellebel on November, 14th with special performance: Uri Deeper Water & Wiebke Schardt.