The making of... Roots & Fungus

People often ask me what I do and the short answer is: I make art from waste. That leads to negative interpretations, because waste is dirty and stinks, especially on warm sunny days like we have here now. The word single-use plastic or disposable packaging material is the next thing I say. But what is that actually?

Almost everything you buy in the supermarket comes in a package. This can be cardboard, but most often it is plastic. All that plastic is for single use, namely to get it from the producer to your home. Then it is discarded. A great deal of plastic is reusable or can be recycled into plastic pellets.

In principle, new packaging could be made from this, but most manufacturers do not want that, because the pellets are no longer white or transparent and then they can no longer get their own colors on them. A ridiculous reason of course! Then you use a different color, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how marketing works…

My little artworks in a shadow box are made from single use plastic. After cleaning, of course, I stick this on a surface of cardboard or an old newspaper with the PVA glue described in my earlier blog post “Shocking discovery!”.

I let this dry for a long time. Then I prepare a large quantity of wallpaper glue and spread it over this plastic layer. I drape thin paper over it whether or not in pieces and smear extra glue on top it. Of course this also has to dry for a long time. For a very long time.

But once it’s dry I can start with color. After every color, sometimes two, it’s time to let everything dry again and so I build up the work layer by layer until I think: this is it.

Then I use a homemade ‘viewfinder’ to look for the gems in the work and I cut it out. So I am left with a number of works. I seal the still open edges with PVA glue again. This is how the works on the table rotate, both among themselves and themselves.

And then it may just happen that one day I go downstairs to my studio, can look at the table with the works from above and I suddenly see paintings that together form a whole.

This has happened to an extreme with “Wasteland in the Winter”, where all paintings have found one or two partners, while they were not near each other during the making of the large work. With “Roots & Fungus” it was only one, but what a beautiful triptych that has become.

For the finish in this series I used Creall’s matte varnish for gouache. I wanted to try this because the texture of the work itself is very heavy. Rubbing beeswax on it would leave blobs of grease in some areas and others uncoated.

For a beautiful presentation of the work, I make the shadow boxes from linen cardboard myself. That is a precise job; all paintings are meticulously measured, so that they all get their own custom-made frame.

There are four holes at the back, because with abstract work it may just be that another side sheds new light on the image. When you get tired of your painting, turn it a quarter turn and enjoy it again.


And that’s how I make the heavily textured works with single-use plastic.

I also make paintings on chips/snack bags. These bags cannot be recycled because the outside is plastic and the inside aluminum. This is a combination that can only end up in the waste incinerator. I will tell you more about that in a next blog post.