Houtense Helden



Het Oude Politie Bureau

De Slinger 2

3995 DE


When and where did you start painting?
I started painting in the psychiatry in Utrecht, the Netherlands when I was 16 in the year of 2005. This was during my first manic episode.


Why did you start painting?
In the psychiatry there was a program we had to follow. One of the activities, alongside others such as fitness, was creative therapy, where we were given the freedom to experiment with colours and other materials.  I just remember being very aggressive in the way I painted and made some pretty crazy art while I was there.


I would use all kinds of paint, and there was no limit to what kinds of materials I would stick onto the canvas, anything from tea to tobacco and various foods. I still have these paintings and it turns out that, even after eleven years, the chocolate cookie I stuck on the canvas hasn’t gone moldy yet.


During that time, I realized it was a good way to deal with my racing thoughts and to release my overwhelming emotions of euphoria and agitation. It was a way to cope with my mood swings alongside medication. And of course it was a form of escapism.


So how would you describe your art these days?
It’s mainly abstract and mixed media.


I’m still painting for the same reasons. I’m still coming from the same place. Still doing the same things, it’s just developed over the years.


I’m still very experimental, always trying to find new ways to combine materials and colours to create something different. Every painting is an unpredictable journey for me, and I never really know the outcome. I do work with ideas, but my favourite paintings are usually the improvised ones, just me free-styling. Possibilities are endless.


Do you have any future plans as an artist?
I just want to keep at it. I’ll stay enjoying the creative process as it continues to have an impact on how I feel and think, whilst at the same time, sharing that experience with others. Since everyone has a unique perspective it’s always interesting to see how people react to my art.


How have people reacted so far?
It’s not uncommon to see people puzzled by the lack of a clear message or concrete imagery to focus on. On the other hand, others are intrigued by the unusual choice of objects used. It’s not every day you see a painting with a mobile phone, a smoked cigarette or some coins stuck onto it. I also tend to stick the paintbrush I used on the canvas.


Whereas some look for their own personal meaning or try to put my choice of materials into some type of context, others might simply enjoy the visual appeal. Regardless of the type of feedback, it always shows me that I’m making some form of impression on people I expose my art to.


 Where are you currently working?
I’m currently working at a creative organization called Houtense Helden, based in Houten, the Netherlands. The organization began in 2012 when a group of people came together with the goal of motivating others to get more involved in creative arts and work together in developing their talents. Since then, the organization has grown and we now have our own culture and arts center.


The building in which we are located, which was previously a police station, is now the workspace of a multi-talented group of creative entrepreneurs. However, whereas the rooms were once used to hold and interrogate convicts and criminals, we have transformed them into art, music and performance studios. That said, the building’s past is still remembered by former offenders’ writings scratched onto the wall during their lockup time.


As for now, we regularly hold exhibitions and events, to which everyone is welcome. If you’re interested in seeing my art or having a look round our workspace, feel free to get into contact with me.


- Joe Bowe -