Guido de Boer’s work gives new life to the old adage “a picture is worth more than 1,000 words”. Though his monolithic murals spell out words, the works are also a thought provoking. They give commentary on the arbitrary meaning we assign to letters and symbols as well as the aesthetics behind these shapes.
de Boer’s work is usually large scale, blowing up the proportions of the words. The bold, linear style he works in gives his paintings clarity and definition. However amid the striking clarity it is surprisingly difficult to discern the difference between some groupings of lines from another. It begs the question of why certain groupings of lines create words and other groupings are without meaning.
Naturally, as our eyes move along the work we eventually pick out the words embedded in the piece. When this occurs, we lose interest in the other painted lines as we have decided that they don’t mean anything. Eventually, we lose sight of the picture as a whole and cannot miss the words that were initially so hard to pick out. In this way, the picture is forever changed in our minds.
The way the viewer actively separates the words from the lines separates de Boer’s work from that of other artists. Viewers actively engage with the piece. They eventually experience the distinct and satisfying moment of realization when they discern the words hidden in plain sight. In this way, his paintings become a challenge for viewer. The beholders then feel the loss of the original image when it ceases to be a cohesive abstract piece. This occurs as their eyes immediately gravitate towards the words every time they look at the paintings.
These seemingly simple paintings elicit such a complex and intuitive cascade of emotions. What’s more, we are ultimately left to ponder the meaning assigned to the letters that represent our language. Discover the creative process behind these intricate works of art and hear what Guido de Boer had to say about his work.
What’s unique about your work?
My work focuses primarily on letters, in the broadest sense of the word. Through the years I have developed a fondness for working in a high contrast, black and white style. Although I mostly works on commission, I sometimes create autonomous work, in which I often seek out and playfully presents oppositional words, ideas, or thoughts. I see letters as contradictions, in the sense that they are both abstract and concrete: they are abstract because letters are essentially arbitrary shapes without meaning and their format and dimension can be interpreted in many ways. At the same time, they are concrete manifestations of the rules and meaning given to them.
What do you want people to do or feel when they encounter your creations?
I’d like people to do two things at the same time: looking and reading.
What is your favorite material to work with?
I work with black writing ink every time the surface allows it.
How do your pieces come to life? Tell us one interesting thing about your process?
Spontaneity is essential to me, and is always present in my work, both in my creative process and its result. I prefer to draw letters by hand, which gives the work authenticity and reinforces the playfulness that is always present in my approach. My hands are an extension of my thoughts. To me, sketching feels like thinking with the hands.
I work at a fast pace, a side effect of my enthusiasm for the creative process. I embrace the occasional surprises and imperfections which can arise in experimentation and sometimes lead to interesting results.
What makes a space special?
What I think is such an extra to working on site, is that I’m sometimes capable of working with that specific space. So the work doesn’t only take place in it, but becomes the space at the same time.
What is seen cannot be unseen. Guido de Boer’s art changes before our very eyes as we glean meaning from a portion of the linear patterns he creates. The bold lines seem to blend together, creating aesthetically pleasing repeating patterns. In this way, his work is both avant garde and deeply intuitive.