Please join us in congratulating Marcel Herms on his selection as Alien Buddha Press Artist of the Month. We came across Marcel’s work several months ago through some mutual connections and were immediately taken aback by his stunning compositions. We began working with him almost immediately on several book covers and soon thereafter he became somewhat of a quasi official ABP artist highly sought after by many writers to work with on cover and interior art for their books. This led to the stellar full length collaboration between Marcel and a group of ABP writers entitled “Masks are Not Enough,” where each writer was tasked with a written interpretation of a different Herms painting. We recently had an opportunity to interview Marcel and here’s what he had to say:
ABP: Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
Herms: I’m from the Netherlands. I live in the eastern part of the country in a small village (Okkenbroek) in the countryside close to Deventer. Since a few weeks ago I have my own studio at home.
ABP: Is there anything else about your personal life and your life outside of art that you’d like to share with us?
Herms: I’m 54 years old now. I’m married with 2 adult daughters. In addition to visual art, I also made sound art (harsh noise, dark ambient, experimental sounds,…) for a long time under different names (my main project was called Fever Spoor, other names were Ubique Daemon, Loki, SAA, Skt. Adolf and Noisebitch). I used to run a label (Anima Mal Nata: check the facebook page or listen here: https://archive.org/details/@anima_mal_nata?sort=-downloads ) on which I have released a lot of CDr’s, a 7”-record and some zines. However, I stopped with that to focus on the visual arts.
ABP: What got you started painting?
Herms: I do not know exactly how it started, but at a certain moment I felt the need for an outlet for certain feelings. I felt more and more an urge to create, to be creative. I simply needed that to make me feel good. It is still like that. If I do not paint or draw for too long, that’s bad for my mood. I did not really get an interest in art in my upbringing, but at a certain moment I started to discover artists that appealed to me. And then I just started. At first imitating inspiring examples and slowly developing my own style.
ABP: How long have you been painting?
Herms: As a child, like most children, I have drawn a lot. Unfortunately, that is no longer encouraged at a certain age. Then you learn to draw at school according to the rules and then the fun was gone for me quickly. I did not create for a long time and only rediscovered it around the age of 20.
ABP: How do you go about choosing a theme or a subject for a painting?
Herms: Lately I have made many illustrations for poems. Then the subject is clear. In other cases I just start to work without a plan. I let myself be led by my subconscious. This creates the best work. I try to work instinctively. I try to enter into a sort of unconscious state when I’m working and then paint or draw things without being in complete control. I make use of mistakes and coincidences and I try to surprise myself. When I start a painting I do have an idea about what I want to make but it always turns out different. I like rough edges. When it gets too smooth I use techniques to make it rough again. Like drawing with my left hand or mixing stuff through my paint. When I finish a painting it takes some time before I got used to it and before I can decide if it’s good or not. It can even take more time before I completely understand it myself. As William S. Burroughs said: “in painting I see with my hands and I don’t know what my hands have done until I look at it afterwards. It’s when I look at the completed canvas that I know what the painting is about”.
ABP: Where does your inspiration come from?
Herms: I draw and paint the world around me, everyday frustrations & people. Things like that. And when I look at my work I can see some theme’s coming back often. Themes like social miscommunication and incomprehension between people. Alienation.
ABP: Is there anything you want to share regarding any current or future projects?
Herms: I just finished the illustrations for a limited edition split Broadside with Ryan Quinn Flanagan and John D. Robinson that will be published by Holy & intoxicated Publications. I also did the covers for 2 books by Ryan Quinn Flanagan which I expect to be published soon.
I illustrated a book by Paul Brookes (Stubborn Sod) and by Matt Borczon (Ghost Highway Blues) which hopefully will be published soon.
I’m going to illustrate a children’s book by Kate Sampsell and a book by Alfred Gremsley. I’m working on a collaboration with Jordan Trethewey that is almost ready and I’m making an artist book for an exhibition in Deventer in February next year. I also have plans to do a collaboration with Crank Sturgeon and then there are all kinds of other plans at an early stage. And I’m open to new projects! So if you want to collaborate or if you want me to do your record- or book cover or if you have other ideas, just contact me.
Marcel Herms is a self taught artist. His work is about freedom in the first place. There’s a strong link with music. Just like music his art is about autonomy, licentiousness, passion, color and rhythm. When he paints he uses everything he can get his hands on: acrylic paint, oil paint, ink, pencils, crayons, spray cans etc. Sometimes he mixes the paint with sand, sawdust or pieces of paper. He paints on canvas and paper and sometimes other materials like wood. He works in different sizes: from very small to real big and he doesn’t limit himself to one medium. He draws, paints, makes 3-dimensional objects and artist books (and audio art) His work was printed in many (inter-)national publications and he designed a lot of record-, book- and CD-covers. He has collaborated with many different visual artists, authors and audio artists from around the world.