Crowd, Biographies and Plants by B.D. Graft


Collage, collaboration, and Instagram — are keywords Millennials most associate themselves with and best describe works of the Amsterdam-based German artist B.D. Graft. These collages, made from pasting yellow cut-outs onto vintage postcards or faded pages of old books, appealed to the instantaneous reactions on social platforms, especially on Instagram. With a rich portfolio of collaborated projects, his presence is constantly growing, not only in the art scene but within the fashion industry as well.

The copy of B.D. Graft’s collage project—Add Yellow(@addyellow) - “Is it mine if I add some yellow?”— is both a bold statement and a provocative question. “If I alter someone else’s work, to whom does it belong? Is it even necessary to claim ownership?” While editing or altering others’ works is considered a similar act to remixing or sampling music today, B.D. Graft’s “fine art” in editing addresses these arguments.

While B.D. Graft started with collages, his world of art has expanded in various directions, constantly blurring the lines between genres. Paint, charcoal, and pastel are used to fill his canvases with the vitality of flowers and plants. Greeting us in his Amsterdam studio, B.D. Graft hopes to transfer the happiness that comes from the plants naturally, yet profoundly saturated across the canvas.

# Collage

Q How did you start making collages?
A I initially studied film and English literature in the hopes of becoming a screenwriter. When a friend of mine introduced me to collages, I quickly developed a style of my own by pasting yellow cut-outs onto pages of old books or vintage posters. I question I began to ask regarding ownership of altered artworks eventually evolved into my 'Add Yellow' project.
Q The 'Add Yellow' project addresses art and ownership, one of the principal controversies in modern art.
A The copy of the 'Add Yellow' project, “Is it mine if I add some yellow?", is both a proposition and a statement regarding the rights and ownership of art, reflective of the current culture where everything is borrowed, remixed and reposted.
Q You've mentioned that those processes are comparable to remixing or sampling a song to create a whole new track in music. This seems to occur in art, music and fashion as well.
A Exactly. You see it in fashion. Everything comes in waves. Jeans are skinny then suddenly they're baggy again. But we've seen it all before in the past. People also just take things without asking and make it their own. Virgil Abloh is a good example. He does it in fashion. He takes an image of the Mona Lisa, prints it on his t-shirt, writes 'Off-white' underneath it and then it’s his. I've also collaborated with musicians and created album covers. How much can you remix or sample a song before it stops being someone else's song and it starts being your own? It’s hard to draw the line.
Q In fact, we seem to be living in the "editing era". Do you consider yourself as a part of this trend?
A Yes. I think nowadays it happens so much that people are not really that shocked by it anymore. It's more accepted. It still remains an interesting topic to talk about. However, the original creator deserves acknowledgement. Even if you don't credit the person, you still have to keep in mind that there was an original source and an original creator. I often use the “Add Yellow” project to create an homage to artists that I love and look up to. So, if I “Add Yellow” to a Picasso it's not saying, “Hey, Picasso your work belongs to me, it's me saying “Hey, I want to give my own contemporary spin to art that I love.”

Q You often use old books.
A Nowadays we are surrounded by screens - phone screens, computer screens, and mass-produced things. It's all very quick and temporary. You use something once and then you throw it away. It's quite overwhelming. Recently, I think people have started more of a counter movement of going back to nicely produced materials, and listening to records as opposed to only digital music. People have started buying records again and buying vintage clothes. People like quality things. It's often the old things that are connected with nostalgia as well. When I’m making collages with old books, it makes me engage with the material and with the history of that object.
Q Your work “MK” inspired from Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf was a very humorous and sarcastic remark at Hitler’s suppression to modern art. How did you come to create this piece?
A There was an article about how this book is still banned and that it’s illegal to even own this book. It felt quite silly to me because it's only a book and you shouldn't give it more power or respect than needed. The article mentioned a shop in Amsterdam that still sells this book along with propaganda and memorabilia from the Soviet times and from the Nazi era. I found it interesting, also being German, to get my hands on this book and wanted to make something beautiful out of something so ugly. Driven by a youthful dream of becoming an artist, Hitler obsessed over classical styles of painting and loathed modern art of any kind. In 1937, the Nazis condemned modern art as ‘Degenerate Art” and works by artists such as Kandinsky, Klee and Ernst were relentlessly burnt and destroyed in Munich. I thought Hitler and the Nazis, they hated modern art so how can I kind of stick it to them? How can I do my thing and say, “Hey, we're not going to stand for this kind of hatred and prejudice anymore.” So, I’m going to take modern art, or contemporary art and stick it quite literally to their pages to disarm the hate-filled words of Hitler.
Q Your works are reminiscent of Matisse’s cut-outs and those of John Baldessari’s.
A The funny thing is that I only discovered John Baldessari's work after I had started with my “Add Yellow” series. It is quite similar to what he had done in the past, for example, taking fields of color and sticking it over people's faces. I found it quite funny that popular culture gets you to think in a certain way. I got this idea, but obviously John Baldessari had it 30 years ago already. Matisse, he's always been an inspiration of mine. I love his paintings, but especially his cut-outs. Just the simplicity of them. I like that he’s not too concerned with the real representation of things. Just very simple, very eye-catching and minimalistic.

Q Why the color yellow?
A Yellow seemed to be quite suitable. It's a very eye-catching color; it immediately draws your eye. It doesn't have as much meaning connected to it as other colors. For example, if I took black, that's quite a dark gloomy color or red- that's for danger or passion. But yellow is a bit more neutral. You do think of things like sunshine, but yellow doesn't have that much meaning. So it allows me to give my own meaning with that color.
Q Have you ever tried imagining the <Add Yellow> project in different formats or scales?
A I had this idea of maybe starting my own street art projects. I thought it would be cool to add big fields of yellow over billboards and street signs. If I were younger that would have been a cool project to do, to go out into the streets and “Add Yellow” to everything. But nowadays, I'm a bit more careful. It would be a cool idea to have these yellow stickers and hand them out to people. They would go into the streets all over the world and “Add Yellow” to everything. Since it's very recognizable, and would be pretty cool especially on Instagram to maybe have a hashtag and see where all over the world people have added yellow. That would be a nice project.
Q Starting with collages, your genre has expanded in various directions to drawing, painting, and to mixtures of forms. You use a wide range of materials including paint, charcoal and pastel to fill canvases with the vitality of plants and flowers. What do you wish to convey to the viewers with these pieces?
A My relationship with art is one of beauty and of conveying positive emotions. I respect and I like looking at serious and deep art. Yet for myself, making art is a sort of therapy. So, when I'm not feeling too good, I make art and it brightens up my day. That's what I want to transfer to the observer. I don’t think I’m going to change the world with my art, but I would like to brighten up some days.

# Collaboration

Q In modern art, collaborations with fashion brands have evolved into a genre of its own. Do you agree?
A Fashion and art have gone hand in hand for a very long time. For those interested in the aesthetics of art, interest in beautiful clothes comes quite naturally. You don't only want to look at something nice on a wall, but you want to express who you are as well through fashion. This makes it only natural that artists often work together with fashion designers and fashion brands.
Q What standards do you have in accepting or declining collaboration offers?
A When I collaborate with a brand or a company, it has to feel like a natural fit aesthetically. What the company does and stands for also has to parallel my principles.
Q How was the collaboration with MUTEMUSE?
A As I mentioned before, I like quality things, those that have been well produced. I also like nice materials, attention to detail and I feel that MUTEMUSE is a brand that really has that as a main focus. Producing quality goods is something that I really like being associated with. It's a perfect symbiosis of art and fashion that for me worked really well.
Q This is your first time working with leather. Were there any difficulties?
A First of all, I had to design these straps and these long and narrow format was something new to me. I like it when collaborations challenge me to try new things and work in ways that I haven't worked in before. I’m very happy with the result. It was exciting because for the first time, my work had been printed on to leather. At first, I thought, “Is this possible? Is it going to work?” But then I started seeing the results and I thought, “Wow. This looks great."
Q What’s the next collaboration?
A A few months ago, I received a direct message from Virgil Abloh through Instagram. He liked my art and wanted to collaborate. So there will be some Off-White t-shirts with my designs coming out soon.

Review Write View All

There are no posts to show

Q&A Write View All

There are no posts to show