Wouter le Duc

The first time we saw the works of Dutch Artist Wouter le Duc, we were drawn to know more about him and his way of working. There is a great composition and storytelling in his pictures, which makes you stop and wonder. Being a returning Journal customer we asked Wouter if we could do an online interview and he returned with the fine idea of making it more like a conversation or a two-way interview. First its Journal interviewing Wouter and in the final part its vice versa

Part 1

Journal:

-How would you describe your work and the reocuring themes in it?

Wouter le duc:

Although my work is easily divided into two parts, personal projects and portraiture, there a several returning elements. Visually, these elements are the use of daylight, soft tones and a certain stillness. In both the project and the portraits I create these elements through the use of analogue photography combined with the use of natural light and taking a lot of time to get to know and to photograph my subject.

Besides the visual elements there are returning themes in my work. Being interested in humans and their psyche, I keep returning to themes such as longing, being isolated in both a mental and physical state and people who are on a quest in life to find answers and fullfillment.

Editor Katherine Oktober Matthews once described a body of work of mine with “the images speak of the winter within”, I think that’s a perfect description of my work.

Wouter_le_Duc_Landslide_in_my_mind_1.jpg

Journal:

-You isolated yourself in the Swedish woods for a period, how did that effect your latest project ”Landslide in my mind”?

Wouter le duc:

This period in my life inspired a lot of things. Being completely cut off from everything in your own day-to-day surroundings gives you the chance to investigate the mind in a different and deeper manner. When I was there I filled my time with writing down my thoughts, listening to music, chopping wood and taking long walks through the snow.

Recently I found and reread the writings I did in Sweden. What I found was pretty melancholic, but my memories of that time were transformed into something else. It was no longer a memory of dark days in my life but

a very comforting, almost utopic, set of memories. I felt a longing to return to this place instead of staying away from it. These liquid memories of my stay in Sweden and the surroundings there fascinated me a lot and I decided to turn this into the project ‘Landslide in my mind’.

Journal:

-There is a great composition as well as light and darkness balance and in the pictures from ”Landslide in my mind” can you let us in on the process creating these pictures

Wouter le duc:

‘Landslide in my mind’ is the most delicate project I did until know. Everything you see is created and photographed in my studio. The construction of these scenes took months and photographing them was a process of doing it over and over again. To create the light I photograhed these scenes under water. Although you won’t notice it immediately, it is an important part of the process as this is what gives it the specific look of the light.

Getting the construction of the scenes right the first time turned out to be an impossible task. Every image took multiple adjustments and the first construction never made it to the final results. The hard part was to create a scenery in which it would all come together; the setting, the direction of light and the composition.

Journal:

-You have earlier mentioned Vilhelm Hammershøi as inspirational source, what is it about his works that inspire you ?

Wouter le duc:

The first time I saw Vilhelm Hammershøi was during an exhibition titled ‘Nordic Art’ in the Groninger Museum. It showed Scandinavian art form 1880-1920 with artists like Vilhelm Hammershøi, Anders Zorn and H.A. Brendekilde. I felt a deep connection with these works and artists, especially with Vilhelm Hammershøi. The combination of subdued grayish tones, the daylight crawling into the rooms and the empty Scandinavian spaces, it all maked sense.

Last spring I visited the Ordrupgaard Museum just outside of Copenhagen. They had a major exhibition running on Vilhelm Hammershøi. When I visited the exhibition I was already working on ‘Landslide in my mind’ for months. I was in the process of photographing the same scene over and over again to capture it the way I wanted it. At the Ordrupgaard Museum they had a setup of 5 Hammershøi paintings with some chairs in front of them. Me and my friend Jos sat down for a long time, just beingastonished by it all. They all showed the same scene, a seemingly uninterested corner from a house which Hammershøi had turned into a breathtaking painting. The paintings were painted during a period of 10 years. I felt a certain relief knowing he spent so much time on the same scene just to capture to essence of it.

Journal:

Any upcoming exhibitions or projects ?

Wouter le duc:

At the moment I am working on several projects. First up is the exhibition of ‘Landslide in my mind’ at Rotterdam Photo which opens on February 9. Besides this I am also working on a new project in which I take the next step in the working method of ‘Landslide in my mind’. Besides these personal projects, I am also working on a series of portraits of Dutch cultural icons for the VPRO Gids magazine.

Part 2

It’s a pleasure to get the chance to ask you some questions. I’ve been following Journal for quite a while now and have always appreciated the esthetics and textures in your designs and fabrics.

Wouter Le Duc:

I’m guessing Journal consists of a small team of dedicated people. Can you give us a description of the Journal team and your role in it?

Journal:

We are a small family driven company so we are all hands on with a lot of things. Jannik; who's main focus is sales and agents contact, Elisabeth; who is our creative responsible from design to branding and image, and me Ralf(husband to Elisabeth ) who is handling all sourcing, buying and marketing. We also have a dedicated web and pr employee named Ann.

Wouter Le Duc:

I’m quite fascinated by how Journal seems to finds the perfect balance between protecting their signature aesthetic and at the same time keeps innovating and reinventing their style. Can you talk me through the process of designing a new collection? How do you/your team gather inspiration and what’s the process of turning this into a garment?

Journal:

I think one of our forces is that we are not driven by trend. As an example the inspiration is always related to a specific topic which for some reason have caught Elisabeths attention, it could be a scientific article, an art piece, an event in her life or a dream even. This inspiration is the base throughout the development of the collection from beginning to end, both in terms of shape, mood, general look, color choice, fabric sourcing and fabric developments. We are generally curious and openminded in the development stage and believe in chaos prior to order, so often things turn out quite different than first expected. Also we often find new and interesting suppliers and fabrics or simply experiment on fabrics which then creates something new and magical to us.

Wouter Le Duc:

In what ways did Scandinavia influence you?

Journal:

Well Scandinavia is not inspiring to us as such, but Elisabeth being Swedish and the rest of us being Danish leaves us with a certain aesthetic throughout our daily work I guess. And as our lives, surroundings and personality is what makes Journal it can always be traced back to here. But I think we do more daring colors,-prints or -fabrics than what is typically considered Scandinavian. Actually I think its more about a general mantra for life in terms of challenging ourselves without complicating things too much.

Wouter Le Duc:

Choose one book, movie or other work of art which inspired you a lot. Which one is it and why did it inspire you?

Journal:

It has to be the performance artpiece: 'The Artist is present' by Marina Abramovich. The intensity, silence and simplicity was super powerfull. It was like a stage with a very private room, with a very intimate non verbal talk between two strangers with an audience watching in absolute silence, awesome.

I think one of the movies which has inspired me the most is the movie Dogville by Lars von Trier. I havent seen it in years and actually it was quite depressing as I remember, but at the same time it was really a textbook case on how to make something magical out of nothing. It was like a fusion experience between the theatre, movie and a book. The sparse, non exsisting settings engages you in a way that you feel that you are imaginating part of the story yourself.

Wouter Le Duc:

If you could sit down and have a meal with one artist/designer in the world (dead or alive),who would it be and why?

Journal:

I think Nick Cave could tell some really funny stories, besides this I love his music and it has been the soundtrack for some epic moments in my life

Wouter Le Duc:

What can we expect to see from you/Journal in the near future?

Journal:

Soon we have exsisted in 5 years and that is a cause for celebration! We will make a small celebration collection consisting of previous styles though out the years in new fabrics as well as a look throughout old sketchbooks!

Wouter Le Duc:

What is your dream project?'

Journal:

Hmm, my first thought would be something totally non-matching initially. Som thing which is so far from what we do that it in some weird way it would make sense to make a co-lab. Like a co-lab with a tech company, car manufacturer or building a house. It would also be super cool to do something inspiring and helpful for people in need, locally or globally. Maybe to utilize disposed garments .

Wouter Le Duc:

You seem to be traveling a lot. What’s your next destination and what are your plans there?

Journal:

Next trip will be to Paris for fabric sourcing, and meeting a few friends from the industry there..

See More of Wouters work on http://www.wouterleduc.com