12oz Exclusive: DOES Solo Show “Transition” Opens at Maxwell Colette Gallery

By - Monday, June 15th, 2015

This past weekend, Maxwell Colette Gallery in Chicago held its opening reception for their current exhibition, featuring mixed media paintings by internationally celebrated, Dutch graffiti artist DOES. The show, entitled Transition, explores the foundation of the letterform and the different ways in which it can be constructed and reconstituted. His interest in the traditional letterform can be traced back to his beginnings as a graffiti artist, believing that the letterform “portrays the writer’s emotional state of mind.” And much like the emotional state of mind, these letterforms can vary drastically; they can be shaped by their environment, affected by their interactions, and can be volatile.

DOES’ interest in the letterform and his experiences in graffiti are inextricably linked. His roots in the world of graffiti are firm, having spent his teen years writing graffiti (when he wasn’t avidly training and playing for a national Dutch soccer team). Transition is as much about DOES as it is about the evolutions and cultivation of his differing artistic styles. 

While preparing for the opening reception at Maxwell Colette Gallery, DOES took some time to chat with us about his experiences as a graffiti artist, the many disciplines in which he works, and the concepts driving Transition.

Who is DOES? Tell us something about DOES that few, if any, know.

I’m a quiet guy with high expectations. 

Who were your mentors as you developed as a graffiti artist?

Nash, Chas, Tumki.

You began writing graffiti in 1997 and have described a pervasive interest in graffiti since you were a young teen. What was it that finally compelled you to begin writing graffiti?

My interest in graffiti grew when my soccer career was becoming more and more important. I needed a certain relief from all the routine and discipline and I slowly developed a second life, a life outside the public eye. 

Have you observed any major differences between graffiti in the Netherlands and graffiti in the states? What are the most prominent contrasts?

I don’t believe that there are major differences between countries anymore, I think the internet has changed this.

Are there any graffiti or non-graffiti artists, past or present, who inspire you and your art? If so, who and how?

My older brother, Joan van Barnevel. His work is somewhat mysterious, which I admire. I recently bought one of his canvasses. 

In general, I’m inspired by the many famous Dutch painters as they are remembered and celebrated long after their death.

Today, you work with various mediums (canvas, prints, paper) and instruments (markers, paint, spraycans), but where did it all start and how did you evolve your style to include so many disciplines?

At some point I had to make the very difficult decision to put an end to my soccer career due to numerous knee injuries. Soon after that I decided to go after my dream and put all my energy in art, as that had been my passion for quite some time. That same year, my girl and I moved to Sydney as we both needed a change from our old lives. It was in Australia that I was able to take some important steps in my development. I think this was because I was able to completely free my mind, being in a totally new environment, not knowing anyone, having no social or family obligations and basically being able to do whatever I wanted. Besides murals, I started to focus more on detailed illustrations and canvas work.

The title of the show, Transition, is also an accurate theme and description for the exhibited paintings. How do transitions in your work mirror or parallel transitions in your life?

A recent transition in my personal life is that my girl and I had a son. He is one now. I do believe this transition has had an impact on my work.  

How does this body of work differ from previous work you have done? 

In this body of work I was able to let go more than I was before. For example, where I used to prepare a canvas by sketching, I now started a canvas without knowing the outcome in advance. Leaving the outcome to chance proved to be quite liberating. Additionally, the canvases are bigger and I’ve used new materials which allowed me to create more liveliness. I particularly enjoyed using gold, silver, bronze leaf and paper. 

Your paintings, especially those exhibited in Transition, appear to be meticulously measured, planned and executed. Which part of your technical process is the most challenging to you? Which is the most exciting?

Starting a blank canvas is always a challenge. Sometimes I start thinking that it’s not going to work out or I start messaging my girl at work that I’m having a bad day…it’s terrible! But I always make myself go forward and then there comes this point where I feel like…mmm…..yes, this could work….and then I get a little bit more at ease, but from there it still takes some time before I can really enjoy the process. Adding the finishing touches is the part that I enjoy most. 

If viewers were to take one thing away from Transition, what would it be?

I prefer to let the work speak for itself. 

You had a very successful soccer career before you began focusing on graffiti, are you still a fan? Do you miss the game? Who do you root for?

I’m definitely still a fan. In fact I’m still involved in soccer as a soccer scout for Aston Villa FC, United Kingdom.  

You’ve said that your travel informs and influences your art quite a bit. What have you learned while traveling in the United States (on this trip or others)? What about Chicago has influenced you or stands out from the rest?

Chicago has a great vibe. The city will definitely be a source of inspiration for a new body of work. 

Graffiti used to be a very localized phenomena, each city and even neighborhood would have its own culture and style. But as graffiti and technology have evolved, and the internet has allowed public access to otherwise unacknowledged or secretive locales and artists,  the culture has become global, and has facilitated travel for artists, like yourself, to exhibit and share your work. You developed and grew in the process of this transition, what was that experience like as a writer and an artist?

When I first started there was no such thing as social media, but there were other ways to get your name out. For example by sending photographs of your work to several magazines around the world. With the rise of internet and social media everything just went a whole lot quicker. In that sense the internet has helped me a lot. 

Since its beginnings as a print magazine, 12ozProphet has always tried to keep up with contemporary work and occurrences in graffiti communities around the world in order to expose readers to new styles, cultures and artists. Did you follow 12ozProphet in the Netherlands, either the magazine or the website? What was its influence or significance?

I always check the website and I know others do; 12ozProphet has helped us stay connected with style developments around the world. 

Transition will be on exhibition at Maxwell Colette Gallery through July 31. You may visit the gallery at 908 N ASHLAND CHICAGO, IL  60622. 

DOES / DOES Instagram

Maxwell Colette / Maxwell Colette Instagram 

Photos by Jeff Mancilla
Interview and words by Jeff Mancilla & Taylor Gerard

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