Food, Color, and Culture: Jacco Bunt on His Artistic Practice
Jacco Bunt is a young Dutch artist that works within the realms of painting and digital art. He brings together simple patterns and iconography with an exquisite color palette, and uses abstraction to create an aesthetic exhuberance that anyone can enjoy. In our interview below, Bunt breaks down his influences, practice, inspirations, cultural background, and color choice, among tidbits to illustrate our own abstract picture of him.
Eben Benson: Where are you from, and where are you currently based?
Jacco Bunt: I was born and raised in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, but moved to Rotterdam when I was eighteen, this year is my tenthth.
Do you think there is a specific tradition of art where you're from? Does this still show itself with artists from there? For you, do you feel like your work has elements of this?
I think Dutch design and movements like De Stijl played an important role in the history of art. I've always been really into the architectural works of Berlage, the geometric works of van Doesburgh, and Mondriaan. I think the Dutch have always managed to come up with a certain view on art that’s refreshing and builds on past artists like Bosch, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Mondriaan. We have a highly anticipated art culture where there is a lot of room for art and design. I think a lot of Dutch artists still work from this tradition, because it became part of our visual language in a lot of different disciplines.
Did you grow up in the "internet generation?" If so, do you think the internet gave you access to more of your influences than your education may have?
When I was younger the internet was limited, and I think an hour of internet a week was the max. But, things slowly changed and internet became a more common thing. These changes played a big role in my work and how it's evolved. I like to research a lot and look into big museums' digital archives. The art world has become so much bigger, everything you want to know is a Google search away. During school, I spent time in the library searching for books, and I still do, but the internet makes it so much faster and easier, that it has in some way become an education of its own.
What are your feelings on art school?
My feelings towards art school are really mixed, it has impacted how I look to things, the people i’ve met, and the way I work, but on the other hand, I feel like it could have been so much better. Making illustrations or paintings is really a self centered process and I feel like art school became such a group thing. If I could redo it, I would definitely choose a different kind of school, my perspective towards teaching, and the process of going to school to get the most out of it.
Birds and flora often appear in your work. What pulls you towards these?
I think iconography and telling a certain story with my work is what drives me to produce new work everyday. So, combining history and known facts is something I play around with. There is such a wide range of meaning for flora and fauna that makes it easy to implement in different kind of work. It’s also decorative, like old tapestry designs or miniature paintings from the Persian era, where a lot of elements combine to complete the image.
What influences your peculiar color palette?
I really like the way artists in the 19th century tried to break with the common art, using color and free expression as a primary reason to create, rather than reproducing what was already visible and could now be captured by a camera. During my time in art school it was a way to compensate for my lack of ‘real’ drawing skills. I never felt the urge to draw realistic or anatomically perfect, instead, I tried to create images where abstraction and color speak, keeping things open for discussion and interpretation. It depends what I’m making, but usually the theme or method (analog, digital) decide what kind of palette I’m going to use. Color plays a big role in my perception of art, so it's also a way to translate my view on things. By using a certain palette, I can change the mood and transmission of the theme, or just clarify it and make it stronger.
Where do you draw the line on figuration and abstraction in your work? It seems like you incorporate both, but what makes you lean one way more than the other?
I had a period where I only wanted to create weird abstract illustrations and paintings, which really helped me develop my thoughts about color, composition, and what purpose for my work. After a while, I realised that I wanted to try combining traditional illustration with patterns and abstract composition to let them interact with each other. So, for now, I think that my work needs to have a little of both to complement each other. I try to create something that has a certain tension, because it’s not all perfectly drawn with weird, stuffed together compositions. I don’t really like to draw backgrounds or surroundings, so I replace them with abstract compositions.
What's your process like making a piece?
It always starts with watching or reading something at that moment. For example, the Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories started off with a series on Netflix. In the end, the whole series became a research and visualisation period focused on Japanese traditions and culture in graphic design. which included iconography, artistic identity, and self expression through art. Food and culture play a big role in my work. For me, it’s a way to understand the world around me, and learn from others; how they reflect on problems in society, and how everything changes. So, my personal projects are all focused on things I love but are unknown or foreign to me. My solo exhibition, La dolce vita, focused on Italian culture, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories centered on Japan, and I've had other projects where I focused on Korea and Iran. I really like to look back and see how a there was a certain style and technique that was used to reflect that moment in time. Combining history with my own experience let me experiment and sketch with an array of visual styles, which I hope improves my work and perspective. It mainly lets me forget that I wake up everyday in the same place.
Do you have big plans for this coming year?
This year started great, with a lot of assignments and some nice opportunities. One of them is an exhibition in Berlin with two good friends, opening in September, which I really look forward to. I’m really going to focus more on painting canvases again, and also hope that I can travel more while working. I’m always open to new adventures.