Daan Botlek Catching a Flamingo
Rotterdam based mural painter and illustrator Daan Botlek makes public art that puzzles, astonish, and amuses. This element of surprise and engagement is urban art at its best: you don’t expect it, and when you encounter this moment of artistic vision in a cluttered urban landscape, there is a clearing of the mind and a rejuvenation of your visual imagination. You are made to wonder at the bright color, the gravity defying constellations of forms and figures. Each of Botlek’s mural projects has a distinctive language of inverting and playing with space, dimensions, volume, and proportion.
The artist’s practice is based on principals of mathematics and conversely an artistic spontaneity. Murals and drawings include monumental images that cover spaces, inscribing configurations of cloud rocks and geometric shapes, interspersed with anonymous figures. Botlek studied illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam, and cites the lives of ancient Greeks such as Pythagoras and Archimedes as key influences.
Daan Botlek Pumice Pantheon, Oranienbaum, Germany
Botlek’s surprising series of paintings made among rocks, ruins, urban settings are all marked by a sense of experimental gravity and amusing way of playing with perception.
Daan Botlek Saphan Taksin, Bangkok, Thailand, 2016
In 2016 January Daan painted Saphan Taksin, a series of urban spaces in Bangkok set in a collection of spaces and walls. Some locations include expansive walls -meaning the pictures act as dramatic backdrop for the every day life of city dwellers.
Other places are more hidden along staircases, around bends…an unexpected splash of color and illustration, the surprise element is one of my favorite aspects of urban art.
Daan Botlek The Submarine Molecule, Diorama Obscura
RB: Please tell me more about your process?
DB: The basis of all my work is drawing; the murals are like larger drawings. I like to take a subject and show it from multiple viewpoints. The outcome can be anything: a drawing, a painting, a puzzle, a pattern, a cartoon, a story, or even an installation.
RB: Are there any personal events in your life that have changed your artistic outlook?
DB: When I was 18 I became very ill and spend a few years in and out of hospitals and recovering. Before that, I already was very much a non-conformist, but after those years even more. All the things that were important to the people surrounding me seemed so insignificant. I still have an independence of mind, and judgment and expectation of self.
RB: The murals require planning and flexibility and independence of mind. What kinds of parameters are usually set for the mural projects?
DB: The parameters are always different. When I am painting independently, the place doesn’t have to be a wall. It could be a floor, the ceiling, broken down wall parts, natural stones, or even stairs. In those cases, it’s important about the surface, and that I can work unnoticed. As well, it’s key that the mural is interesting from a photographic point of view, because after all, the photo is all I can take with me.
Daan Botek Principals of Organization, Rotterdam, Rewriters010
RB: And when you have commissioned projects? The fascinating blue shapes on the Kuhne&Co building in Rotterdam was a very complex but exciting project.
DB: When it’s a commissioned wall it’s also important to understand my surface. It helps if the dimensions are known in advance in order to make an accurate sketch. Nevertheless, often the wall space is cancelled at the last minute, when you’re already there. Even in the case of a second or back-up wall can be cancelled multiple times. So eventually, there will be a lot of improvising anyway. Then there is always the weather to deal with.
Daan Botek Pythagoras Copper Twist