Numero Netherlands, #april 2023, interview
Words AICHA PILMEYER
With his striking acid blueprints, conceptual artist Rabin Huissen invites us to delve into the depths of our physicality. Taking us on a journey of self-discovery by bringing us up close and personal with the human body. Through his striking use of color and design, Huissen’s pieces push us to reconnect with our natural selves in the most exciting way possible, revealing vulnerable layers of meaning that go beyond simple aesthetics.
A: Do you remember your first encounter with art?
R: I vividly recall my first encounter with art at just seven years old. At primary school, we made a cast of my small hand using white plaster. It was a pure and captivating discovery for me, I can still feel the moment my right hand sank into the smooth and milky texture of white plaster, slowly covering every inch of my skin. It was a transformative moment! This replica of my little hand became a true work of art, proudly displayed by my mother inside the crockery cupboard. This childhood memory has really shaped me as a person and also how I approach my art.
A: Your work focuses on the fundamental aspect of our humanity – our physical body. Similar to your first artwork, the cast of your hand, you continue to use your own body as the centerpiece of your creations. Your art urges us to rediscover this crucial aspect of ourselves. What inspired you to create such personal and intimate art?
R: When I create, I use my body as a tool to express and say something about time, place, and the state I am in. The creative process involves using my body as an instrument to express my thoughts and emotions about the present moment. I have a deep desire to express my vulnerability through my work. Since I have come to realize that it’s important to acknowledge and accept my emotions, without feeling ashamed or embarrassed about them. It’s a shame we still live in a world where men are often discouraged to show their feelings. And I have noticed that very few men work with the body, let alone their own body. This begs the question, why is vulnerability still perceived as a weakness in our society?
In my art, I embrace vulnerability and encourage others to reconnect with themselves. I hope that by sharing this aspect of myself through my art, I can inspire others to do the same. The body is a powerful tool that reflects our innermost desires and feelings, and it’s important to be aware of this connection.
A: Your blueprints seem to capture these energies so well that the viewer can feel them emerging from the works. Your bold colors and textures are unique and bring your work to life. Can you let us in on your process of making the works?
R: I wake up two hours before sunrise to achieve the state of consciousness that my art portrays. This surreal time marks the transition from night to day and this is where I find inspiration. To create my light-sensitive paper for the blueprints, I carefully choose the paper type, size, and shape, and collect the necessary materials. Making the paper requires precision and focus in a process executed in complete darkness, making it a challenge during travel.
Once the paper is prepared, I expose it to light during an unannounced public “performance” where I let my body sink into the paper and let natural elements like sun and wind affect the process. Creating a unique and intimate record of my physical interaction with the material. Time is the invisible force that enables the reaction to occur before the instant is finally registered. The bold colors and texture emerge during and after the process.
My art captures an intimate body experience, where my body marks the paper to reflect personal encounters while traveling. Simultaneously, the artwork connects to others’ experiences in that same moment, preserving the energy of that moment and linking my personal history to others.
A: What is it that captivates you about the transition from night to day, what do you find in that moment of stillness?
R: There is a blank space between day and night, a moment of transition. For me, there is magic in that blank space, the essence of my work. The moment of transition from pressing my body down on the paper to standing up and revealing the first results of my blueprint is crucial. It’s a moment of transformation and surrealism. I aim for viewers to experience both recognition and alienation when they see my work, and to question their perception of reality. This is highlighted by the use of colors, which are often very acid-like and artificial creating a stark contrast with the natural physicality and action I try to convey. This juxtaposition can make the work feel almost unnatural or otherworldly, existing in a space between reality and imagination.
A: It seems like there’s a recurring theme in your artwork surrounding the idea of duality.
R: Yes, that’s it; just like the contrast between day and night, duality is the catalyst for friction and sparks. In my work, I aim to capture this tension between two extremes that blurs the distinction between reality and surrealism. As the size of the work increases, so does the level of vulnerability and surrealism. Forcing the viewers to look up close at the body. Laying bare the different elements and confronting the viewers with this raw vulnerability while inviting them to reinterpret its form, allowing for new meaning to emerge.
A: Do the colors within your works hold intentional meaning or are they more of a spontaneous choice or a consequence of a creative process?
R: Yes, the colors within my work have intentional meaning or hold a secret code. Each color has a special meaning or code that only I know about. It’s like a secret message reminding me of specific things like dates, locations, actions, or how I felt. I hope the colors and textures in my art have their own vibe and energy that speaks for themselves.
For example, I have a color code for the days of the week. If I create something on a Monday, the artwork will be yellow, as Monday for me relates to yellow, Tuesday relates to pink, and Wednesday will color green. The brightness or intensity of the color depends on how I feel at the time. It’s a very personal process, and it adds another layer of meaning to my work.
A: It’s interesting you mention codes within the colors since I have also noticed the titles of your artworks read like codes themselves. They provide us with information, for example: “Hand – Oscar Wilde(Sebastian Melmoth), (08.10.21, 01:36-01:46 p.m., 29.5°C, 325°NW, Wild’s tombstone, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France), Washed on location, 02:03 p.m.” What do the dates and locations tell us about the works?
R: Just like my color system, the titles of my works also refer to “secret codes” giving the viewers a deeper insight into my creative process. By providing notes and details, the titles serve as a guide for viewers on how to read the piece. They tell you about things like what part of the body you are looking at, when and where it was made, and even the temperature and location or even the geographic coordinates.
Although I understand that these codes may not always be easily understood, I don’t believe that a work of art necessarily needs to be fully understood to be appreciated. Ultimately, I hope that the energy and emotion of the artwork transcend the need for complete understanding, allowing viewers to simply experience and connect with the piece on a deeper level.
A: The titles of your works suggest that you create them while traveling abroad. Recently, you returned from an artist residency and exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand. Could you tell us more about the significance of these residencies for your art practice? How do they impact your creative process and the work you produce?
R: Art residencies are an important time for me to focus on my work without any distractions. It’s a period of intense concentration and self-research. It’s a place where I can focus on my work without any distractions. In fact, it gets me out of daily life, out of daily patterns and structures.
A place where I can break free from my daily routines and societal expectations. Through residencies, I can delve deeper into myself and my art, unburden myself from social roles and masks, and find new sources of inspiration. These periods recharge my creativity and I feel invigorated when my artwork is exhibited after such a focused period.
A: The theme of this magazine’s issue is Genesis, which means “origin” or “creation” in Greek and reflects the biblical narrative of the beginning of the world and humanity. To conclude I would love to hear how you relate to this term.
R: It’s a theme I can easily identify with because of the story and way of ‘originating’, it reflects my creative process. It all starts with a spark – the beginning- and continues through writing, which evolves through traveling, and my many artist regencies abroad. These experiences shape my personal story, which I showcase in my exhibitions. Through making art, I explore myself and ask questions about my identity, feelings, and relationships with others. My artworks are like footprints that I leave behind and allow me to be a part of history.
– For more information please visit: http://www.rabinhuissen.com
Rabin Huissen portrait: @JACQUELINE FUIJKSCHOT
Left: Mouth, “Untitled” (21.06.19, 02:15-02:18 p.m., 310°NE, 39.4°C, Garage Rooftop, Rebel Art Space, Phra Khanong, Bangkok, Thailand), Washed in Tap water. Right: Balancing Torso, “Untitled” (04.06.19, 00:41-00:47 p.m., 345°SW, 45.0°C, Ao Nuan, Koh Samet, Thailand), Washed in Sea water
Middle: Arms, “Untitled” (04.06.19, 01:38-01:42 p.m., 320°NE, 50.4°C, Ao Nuan, Koh Samet, Thailand), Washed in Sea water. Right: Torso, “Untitled” (26.06.19, 10:16-10:21 a.m., 50°NE, 48.5°C, Rooftop Rebel Art Space, Phra Khanong, Bangkok, Thailand), Washed in Pool water.
Right: Mouth, “Untitled” (11.05.18, 08:38-08:40 A.m., 55°NE, B14/F4/2, RMUTT, Thanyaburi, Thailand), Washed in Tap water. Right: Legs, “Untitled” (18.09.18, 08:23-08:33 a.m., 65°NE, 33.5°C, B14/F4/2, RMUTT, Thanyaburi, Thailand), Washed in Shower water