Interviewed by Lucy A.Edwards on behalf of The Moniker Foundation
Tell us a bit about yourself, a little intro/bio so any readers out there can learn a little about the "man behind the murals":
My name is Tymon de Laat and I am a painter from Rotterdam, Netherlands. Mostly I work from my studio in this ever developing port city but I paint murals in NL and around the world. I have a curiosity towards travel and exploring our globe's cultures, looking for the similarities in our differences. Having a Dutch Father and Polish mother I have been raised with two cultures that view the world and interact with it in their own way but eventually we are all people looking for predominantly the same goals. This became even more clear when travelling to other places. We all are different but equal, I see this as a celebration of humanity that I want to explore further and visually translate.
Leilana was for a project Tymon recently completed in the Carribbean on Bonaire
Island for Street Colours Bonaire.
When did you first realise you could draw? And how did you evolve your work and style?
(laughs) Well... I actually realised I could NOT draw when I finished the Willem de Kooning Academy of Arts in 2001. I mean, I always enjoyed a bit of drawing and it was Art I got my best grades for in high school, but I never thought I could make a living out of it. Hoping to learn how to draw I went to the academy, where I studied to become an art director. Once I received my diploma I realised that advertising was not for me and even though I loved the conceptual part there were hardly any practical drawing and painting classes there.
So I was slightly confused, but wanted to finish school to give the good example and make my parents proud. After the degree it felt it was my time and packed my bag and went on a year long trip. I wanted to step away from the comfort of home and the protected environment to see if I could hack it by myself. Completely unprepared and I borrowed 3000 dollars worth of travellers cheques, but full of good will I left for Mexico and I had a ticket back from Argentina. This eventually led me to a sense of freedom, having all the time in the world but not the funds (8 dollars a day for travel, food, drinks and a place to sleep) I learnt I didn't need much to feel fulfilled. This sense of freedom gave me the insight that I can try and make a living as an artist and do whatever came up and keep my freedom in a country like NL which is very career orientated. The issue was that I was still lacking the technical skill. After coming back a year later (2004) I decided to give it a shot and try to become a full time artist. I did not want to focus on concept in that time as I walked away from it after the academy but focus on the craft and technicality of painting. It ended up in giving myself 10 years to work without having to adhere to a particular style or direction and paint what ever was a challenge and I found interesting. You could say my concept was not to have a concept for 10 years. When the 10 years passed late 2014 it felt like I finally had some grip on painting and wanted to bring all the different styles of work together, taking the best bits and learning from my past mistakes to combine it with a new challenge which was portraiture and my fascination of travelling. In all my works in those previous years colour was a very reoccurring theme and that must have been some remnant of the trip through latin America.
Would it be correct to assume you have a love and appreciation of Latin-American/Mexican culture? It seems to be a heavy influence on your work - could you tell us a bit more about this please? As mentioned above, the Latin American culture really took my heart by storm. Travelling on a spares budget meant I had to avoid all the tourist traps and get off the beaten track. Here I met many locals who were so open, interested in my culture and willing to share theirs. I was not used to this openness in the Netherlands, here people took half a day of their time to show me their city when I only asked them for directions to the market. It brought many great moments and unexpected adventures and a glimpse of their values in life. They know wealth that not necessarily is monitized but lies within friendships and connection. This I wanted to take back home with me, I could not help but paint about the new way of looking at the world. I feel like I still have a lot to learn from other worldly views, paint about new discoveries, cultures and how rich & colourful society is. Now a days when I travel for work or pleasure i bring my camera and shoot portraits for references that i later use for my image bank. I found that taking these photos also is a great way to start a conversation when walking the streets, a great segway into a new adventure or story. So most of the people you see in my paintings I have had the pleasure of meeting and can tell a bit about them.
Most recently, you've been working on a collab with Eurovision - tell us more about this, how it came about, who your mural is based on etc: For Eurovision I painted the portrait of the Dutch contestant Jeangu Macrooy. It all started when I saw the Eurovision introduction video where they announced the theme "open up" in this video there was a snippet of a mural I made some time ago and it got me thinking. Also the theme "open up" resonated with me and I decided to send the Municipality of Rotterdam an email to request permission to do a mural for this event, even though I would not call myself a Eurovision fan. They agreed and so the project started, due to Covid this took a year longer than planned. I scheduled a photoshoot with Jeangu and we had some time for a chat to ask him what the song he was going to perform meant to him. I tried to use all this information and convey it into a 20 x 24 meter mural that is adjacent to the venue where Eurovison was held. The first week of painting the wall was in snow and hail storms but it had to be finished as the deadline was set, the second week was a sunny one and the people came out to see the mural.
"Birth of a New Age" painted in cooperation with the Up Street Rotterdam project.
Who's your artistic inspiration or muse? I think the biggest inspiration for me is humanity itself in all it's diversity.
Tell us about your favourite mural project you've personally worked on to date: I really enjoyed painting the Eurovison wall but one of my favourite pieces is still the mural in Rotterdam on the Bergweg called "Madre Tierra" 12 x 15 meter. Madre Tierra is a message from the mother earth paradise. A notion that all people despite their cultural, religious, ethnical differences, beliefs and appearances still belong to the same human kind and have to live under one roof. This planet is not ours but only borrowed from our following generations.
"Madre Tierra" by Tymon de Laat Who's your favourite artist of all time and why? There are many artists who's work I really admire, to name a few Tiziano Vecellio for his sublime portraiture, Mad C for the colour used, composition and transitions. And Nuno Viegas with whom I have shared my studio with for 5 years and I saw how quick he evolved into the artist he is nowadays, he really helped me open my eyes and re-adjust my ambitions to a world stage. How's the pandemic been for you? have you managed to still be creative or has it stuck you in a bit of a rut?
At first I saw all my international jobs get postponed which was a bummer. The first 2 months were a bit quiet but a welcome slowing down form painting and getting to spend time with my wife and dog "Sketch". After that the commissions for paintings on canvas started coming in as they were before the pandemic. It gave me more studio time and practising the technical side of acrylics as the recent years spray paint has been getting the most of my time. 6 months after Covid came and we all went into lockdown things fortunately picked up like never before and I have been running around since, for which I am very grateful.
Tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions you have planned:
Well I don't want to jinx anything so I will just tell some confirmed travel jobs but hopefully later this year I will be painting in the UK again with Landmark Street Art in Carlisle and after that a job in Jordan which I am looking forward to and some commissioned pieces that I need to get started on. The best way to keep an eye on whats coming is to check my stories on instagram via @TymonDeLaat
Photographs by photographer Rosa Quist.