Frans and Rienus Franciscus are a Dutch art duo. They are staying 4 months at Instituto Buena Bista, doing the residence program from Januari until April 2015. We asked them about their stay, their background and how they work.
F: I see myself more as a romanticist than a politician. More a psychological romanticist than a activist romanticist. My paintings can result with a message in them, but when I’m making them I can’t stand next to them. So I can’t stand next to it and explain what it means. It should strike with beauty. But beauty is a relative term, I can’t please everyone. So the mission as a artist to make a beautiful painting is there and the next level would be to translate a work for example, I make a version of the classic french painter Anne-Louise Girodet Trioson, the scene Le Deluge, about the Flood, it has a meaning. But maybe if someone sees it in 20 years, it won’t. Although it’s a classic. Anyway, a real activist political mission I don’t have. In our photography for example now that we are in Curaçao, we could have our criticism about the society here, and we might have it secretively, as we have criticism on Dutch society, but we are thinking to photograph a maffia figure and romanticise him, without judgement. We don’t want to put a nasty person there. The person must be immediately recognisable by the Curaçaoan eyes.
Above: The Flood by Anne-Louise Girodet Trioson | Under: Tsunami by Frans Franciscus
R: It’s super fun to discover what is Curaçao though. We do this by doing everything and moving everywhere. We don’t like vacation for vacation, that is boring. This is the ideal way for us to get to places that we normally wouldn’t go to or and doing things we normally won’t do. We don’t have the truth of who is a typical Curaçao person to photograph, we will show our interpretation. The truth doesn’t exist, it’s not about that. We will place the ambience where the viewer can discover something about himself into the photography. And this again without pointing with a finger.
F: We are here for 4 months, it’s impossible to really form an opinion here. If you would stay here even for a long time, you still only have one vision, one point of view.
R: We are not part of Curaçao, we leave. This sometimes actually works. We make this series already for 4 years but we decide and make the final choices. Because we get a huge amount of persons who voluntarily want to pose. But we want to feel a story to go with. The story goes in layers, it can have a historical layer, it could be a cliché, we can put a archetype, any story really, we want to put a certain image. That image for Curaçao, to capture Curaçao we try to discover while we are here. It will have all these different layers in it. We learn as we go.
When we go to the supermarket for example, we see the mix of Dutch and Papiamentu in the products, in the language what we hear. Or on the street we see Robbie’s lottery everywhere. Then we do some research about Robbie and discover this maffia layer with him. Or when we shot the actress Rina Penso, she gave us 4 Curaçao feature films, these movies are a treasure, a richness in images.
F: We went to Kurá Hulanda museum to find objects and oddly enough we watched a movie they showed as an introduction with this whole biblical history in it. It was totally unclear. A painting of Caravaggio occurs in the movie. It’s the painting where Abraham is at the point of sacrificing his son Isaac to God but God tells him to stop, he sees his faith is real. He can kill the goat instead. I actually have this story already 10 years in my mental library to do something with. Now suddenly finally I can do something with it here.
A white dominating Dutch Abraham who sacrifices a young black Curaçaoan boy. There is the allegory. The sounds are hens, dogs, cats, goats. They become ingredients in the painting. It is a complicated proces but all falls into place.
F: My parents are nothing but amazing, they never inhibited me in my art career. On the contrary. My dad had a plumbing company, as did his dad. He started in the business at age 16. My mother only had elementary school and joined him in the company when they got married. Both were very liberal. My dad was a amateur painter and draftsman. Every Saturday morning till noon he went to an painting club where they did drawing and painting. My sister sculpts for already 40 years although she’s a pedagogue. The funny thing is, and I never got this, when I eventually went to do art school by father was blissfully happy. It was his dream to do this but he worked in the family business since young and had to provide. They got my sister when they were 19 years old, different times, but when I started the art academy he completely seized drawing and painting! As if he passed the torch. And my name Frans Franciscus, actually my first name is Franciscus, like my dad. I took his first name as my surname. People needed to know the difference with my work and my dads work. That’s how it started. My parents are still alive and well and they visit all my exhibitions. They have so much of my work in their home.
R: I was always the best in drawing at my elementary school and everyone was always talking about that, which I completely forgot. Recently there was a class reunion and that is what they all recall about me. I was very good with my hands, with hammering, sculpting, anything with the hands. I always was in the creative sector, never really left it. I went into fashion and graphic design, all different disciplines within the creative sector. I’m passionate about everything. I let it all come to me. I can really get into things that I don’t make myself. I’m crazy about art and what people do. I get passioned about very different things within art that have to do little with myself. It’s complicated to say though when I’m satisfied with a work I made myself. At a certain point something is done. I’m used to do commissioned or assigned work and have deadlines. In that aspect it’s only natural to feel satisfied when done, this I’m used to and I’m good at. But in the arts, it’s more tricky, sometimes I find my works really bad. Then it’s very nice to work with Frans to get his feedback. There are days I can’t look at it, with it’s up and downs. I can’t say that when it’s done that I can be satisfied, no. There is no way to tell because it’s always under development.
F: As for me, I’m a visual artist since 1986 and have made about 500 paintings. I know the process and when I finish a painting I need to put the painting away for 4 weeks. I have been looking at it for so long, I need to take that distance, I then get it again and I will know: this is it.
I know the timing when to distance from the work and Rienus is still searching for that moment. He is while editing the photos literally on the screen and won’t see it anymore.
I bike home from my studio back to the city and I think: Oh what have I’ve been doing all day? it’s hideous! Then I go home and cook and do the daily chores and let it go. Which helps me look fresh again the next day.
Rienus paints too, digitally. He uses all types of brushes, that come in all different sizes and hardness, different shapes of brushes, he is drawing in the program. Rienus: I paint with light, light is photography.
F: Rienus works with all the buttons, executing and I’m behind the button, sort of, saying it should go there and there, higher or lower.
R: It’s a very pleasant process to do together.
F: It’s hard to explain how we work exactly. People ask it a lot: who does what exactly? We both aren’t real photographers.
R: We just use photography as a medium, we are not photographers, no way.
We are working already 4 years on the According to Hans Memling series. We love to let the different time eras cross each other, all in the romanticism setting. Romanticism is of all ages.
Above: Portrait of Jacque of Savoy by Hans Memling, Under: Portrait of Rina Penso by Rienus & Frans Franciscus
R: In general we think it’s a good thing to keep telling a story. It’s good to repeat a story.
F: I will explain this to the IBB-students. We are standing on the shoulders of our ancestors. We should take advantage of this and make much use of our heritage.
Here at IBB it is a lot about reflection, flashy and to in short time make large works, monumental works.
Our approach however is about re-telling a story, a much told story, but with your very own interpretation. It’s not about copying or imitating, it’s about emulating. A tad further.
It doesn’t matter that the story is told a thousand times, you tell it with a different hue, a different sound. It doesn’t even have to be perfectly original in the execution, to figure out a total new invention, because still your own version will come out.
R: The story goes about the story.
If after 5 years we return to IBB what could be different? We were very enthusiastic about being here. We were amazed and still are. We think the students here are even spoiled. With all the equipment to their disposal and all the studio spaces they have. But the students need to be pushed so much. The mentors have to kick their buts so many times to keep working. In the Netherlands this will not happen. We, however, are not teachers and don’t do anything educative. We hate to evaluate, because each work is just a facet and just a moment of the process.
We would if we would return in 5 years be nostalgic about it: like oh wow, how it changed and which students maybe would have already returned to the island…as artists.