June 3, 2021

By Gary Kim

Red Skeleton. 2020. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

Hi Joris. Could you introduce yourself to the Art Terms Magazine readers?


My name is Joris Graaf. I was born in The Hague (The Netherlands), but spent a significant portion of my younger years in Asia and Australia due to my father’s work. I went to high school and university back in The Netherlands and studied to be a geologist. I worked in industry for more than a decade before switching my attention to making art, full time, around 3 years ago. I currently live and work in Wateringen, close to The Hague.


Your photograph has various colors and it’s hard to find clear objects on it. Could you briefly explain to us the process of making your works?


My digital photographic works begin with me either looking for scenes to photograph, or constructing these myself with all kinds of materials. The photographic material that I amass in this way forms the raw ingredient that I then process in a software package called Lightroom (a digital counterpart to the traditional photographic dark room). Over the years, I developed a method to mis-use this program to transform my photographic images into artworks, which bear a resemblance to paintings. More recently, I have also started to create physical collage pieces by attaching cut-up prints to hardboard supports.

Mean Charlene. 2020. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

Where do you usually get your inspiration?


I’m a very emotional and intuitive person and this is really where my inspiration mostly comes from: my own feelings, memories, fears and fantasies. I also let myself be inspired by the music that I listen to.


Most of your paintings have similar patterns like lines. What do those patterns mean?


The patterns themselves don’t really have significance. They’re just part of the larger picture when I try to create a particular atmosphere. My work always contains varying degrees of order and chaos, straight lines and noise.

The boundary condition. 2021. collage. Giclee prints on MDF. 61x61 cm 

Do you usually make plans out for every single thing before you create artworks? Or do you make artworks spontaneously?


Both happen. Sometimes I walk around on the street somewhere and then, by chance, find a beautiful structure or shape which I then photograph and use as the basis for digital photographic artwork. On other occasions, I wake up in the morning and just decide to create a particular type of piece. Then I try to recreate that idea as closely as I can (although it never ends up exactly the same as the idea in my mind).


What’s the essence of your artwork?


I don’t know. I find this a difficult question to answer. I just make art because I have an extremely strong urge to do so. I don’t make art to convey stories or messages to other people. I just want to make a visual representation of what I’m feeling or thinking at a particular time. I want to create atmosphere.

Nostalgie Nr. 23. 2019. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

What artist influenced you the most?


I think that I’ve drawn influences from lots of different artists. Especially when you’re just starting, you tend to use elements of other people’s work, whether consciously or subconsciously. I started off as a ‘pure’ photographer. Many of my photos were kind of abstract, but I didn’t do a lot of digital processing. The thing that influenced me the most was when I discovered the world of contemporary abstract painting on Instagram. I didn’t know anything about art (I still don’t), but when I saw these paintings for the first time, they really struck a chord with me and I knew in which direction my art should go. But I had absolutely no skills as a painter, so I started to process my photos in such a way that they resembled paintings.


What is your favorite comment or critique you’ve received about your work?


Someone once used the caption “Saudade” when sharing one of my artworks on Instagram. I didn’t know what it meant, so I looked it up:  “A deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares for and/or loves” [wikipedia].  I’m very grateful to this person because I think that the term closely describes a theme that is ever present in my work and I never knew what to call it before.

Say hello to madness. 2020. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

Do you have an artwork that you are proud of or especially attached to?


At the moment, that would be a piece called “the boundary condition”, a small collage work. I’m very proud of this, because it was one of the first artworks in a long time that I made with my hands. Before that, I had been working digitally for a long time. For this piece I had a strong idea beforehand of what I wanted to make and how I was going to do it. I was really happy with the result and absolutely thrilled that it got sold to a collector in New York City.


What was the most difficult experience while creating amazing artworks?


I think that I’m experiencing that right now! The last few years have been great for me: I was full of inspiration and ideas and I managed to create a large number of artworks one after the other. But, since the end of 2020, when the third wave of Covid struck the Netherlands, I’ve been suffering from severe artists block. I lost my way for a while and I’m just now starting to crawl out of it.

Paper Cuts 2. 2020. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

What is the most important detail or point you consider the most (when creating artworks)?

The work needs to be a true expression of me, of my personality and emotions.


Do you remember when your artwork was first sold? How was it like?


I think it was at an exhibition that I had in Germany in 2018. I just felt extremely proud. Selling a piece of art is the greatest compliment that I can get as an artist. The fact that people are willing to give me money to have my art in their homes is incredible.

The Chrysalis. 2020. digital photographic artwork. dimensions variable. 

How do you think social media affects the art field?


It is both the greatest and the worst thing there is: It has given a whole generation of artists an audience that they would never have had otherwise, myself included. It is also a curse: I’ve grown to rely upon it too much. At a certain point, I started using the response that I got on social media to a particular new artwork as a gauge of how ‘good’ that artwork was. I’m very sensitive to other’s opinions. If I posted something and it didn’t get a huge response, I’d become really depressed and confused.


Is there an artistic goal that you would ultimately reach through your work?


At the moment, I’m just trying to be consistent and confident. I’m neither of these yet.


Is there a new material, genre, or expression technique you want to try?

Well, as I mentioned above, I’m in the middle of a change right now. After a few years of working digitally, I developed a very strong urge to work with my hands. That’s when I came up with the idea to cut my own prints into pieces and to re-arrange those into new compositions to create collage artworks.

Joris Graaf

What kind of artist do you want to be remembered as?


I hope as someone who did his own thing; heartfelt, authentic, original. I still have a long way to go and much to learn.


What can we expect from your next works? Could you give us a slight hint?


I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction in which I should go: Just digital? Or only collage? Should I choose?  But I don’t think that there will be any big changes in the near future. I’m going to continue doing both: digital photographic artworks and collage.


Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. Would you like to say something to the readers of Art Terms Magazine?


Thank you very much for your interest in my work and for taking the time to read this interview.




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