Joshua van Iersel: Vitamins on the wall

Less is more doesn’t really apply to me, asserts Joshua van Iersel, with a touch of an understatement. He is exhibiting his exuberant art at Veghel’s Noordkade. It is multi-layered, energetic and vibrant. “Like it’s packed with vitamins,” Joshua adds. The opening of his expo in the former compound feed factory is well behind him now. But he still looks at his work with a sense of wonder. Like a viewer seeing his works, sometimes several metres high, for the first time. Joshua claps his hands together. He gets a kick out of the echoing sounds in the towering silos. He points out that his art works much better on the grey concrete than on the white walls of his studio. Joshua is beaming. He can see that it’s good.

Text: Paul van Vugt // Image: Saskia Kropff

Joshua’s work can be categorised as pop art, figurative or abstract. But what stands out most is its exquisite playfulness. Including plenty of influence from comics, which makes his work casual and accessible. Happy faces pop up on every canvas – or cloth, as he likes to call it himself. Those funny faces have always been there with Joshua. As a child. And as an artist.

The faces serve as anchors in the chaos. In Joshua’s brain stew. “They make my work straightforward and clear. And they also serve a distinct purpose: they provide loads of positive energy.” Something we could certainly use as a society, in Joshua’s opinion. “I sometimes get fed up with the world having a bit of a downer atmosphere. Then I think to myself: have a look around you. Look at what an awesome place we live in. Grab hold of those vibes. Feel the soul.”

His expo is aptly titled Underneath the Surface. Everything we see has something beneath it. There is always something lurking below the visible surface. For Joshua, the physical layering of his work was born out of necessity. “My art is an outgrowth of my work ethic. As a budding artist, I was more productive than my wallet could afford. There was often no money to buy cloths. So I continued working over my existing work. I just kept drawing and painting.”

That layered approach is now Joshua’s signature. Even now that there’s a bit more bread and butter on the table and he no longer has to watch out for every single metre of canvas cloth. He has made a name for himself. New doors have opened. Thanks in part to the entrepreneurial spirit he has discovered in himself. Like a new layer beneath his artistry.

“I’ve set myself the goal of making progress every year. To look at where I stand as an artist. At what my work does to my audience. And I want more people to see my work. Because I notice from the reactions I get that my work exudes health. It’s energetic and cheerful, like a burst of sunlight.”

As far as sunshine goes, Joshua has very little to complain about at this expo. Nor when it comes to clients eager to commit to his work. “My art has been adding colour to La Fuentes clothes for a while now. This was something of a chance development, thanks to my friend who looks after the clothing line on behalf of Red Bastard. The cooperation is still in its infancy, but once that bridge is truly in place, we’ll explode.”

“I find that working on commissions is good for my development. My priority is to only take on commissions that suit me. For these, you have to consider a few boundaries that you don’t have when you make 100% free work. Different formats and materials, for example. It also forces me to listen to my audience more carefully. To approach my own work with a critical eye. Forcing yourself to create something surprising. Entrepreneurship helps me grow as an artist. So I can make strides. To London and Paris… I want to keep moving forward. Without forgetting to enjoy the now.”

“I want to taste like a good cup of tea. With my own character. That means staying true to myself. Being stubborn and persistent in who I am and what I do. That’s a real Van Iersel trait, inherited from my dad and grandpa. I cherish their vision as artists: ‘If you make noise, make sure it’s your own,’ they’d say. And make sure your work adds something. That it reaches into people. And whatever happens: stick to your plan and your identity.”

“In my case, I always come back to the funny faces. That’s the purest form of who I am. My roots. And the gateway to my audience. Adults get absorbed in my work, but those little faces also fascinate children. That’s very important. Because what could be better than a grandfather and a grandchild enjoying your work together. Managing to touch them both.”

“As far as I’m concerned, really, they could even add something to my canvases with a marker. For me, that would be more of an enhancement than a defilement of art. Express yourself. Add something to the world. Draw, drum, dance, write… whatever. Expressing yourself is in your nature. It’s good for everyone,” Joshua advises, as he takes another stroll between his works. Proud and happy as a child. His eyes get lost in all the colours and shapes. In the layers of his life. You can see his head working overtime.

“You know, there are people who only express themselves by jotting down a shopping list…

I really don’t understand that at all.”

Visit Joshua van Iersel’s expo ‘Underneath the Surface’ through 10 March in De Compagnie, Noordkade 10-12 Veghel

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