Artist and designer from The Hague (Netherlands) Christa Van Der Meer shows us that lines, forms and shapes on their own could form a story with an identity. We see in her portraits that what we think is definitive to define the human structure or form is perhaps invalid, such as in a face with all its identifiable features. Deconstructing and distorting these structures into fluidity opens up honest emotion and human essence in its most intangible form, the human spirit. Christa Van Der Meer brings the spirit concreteness, shedding light on its absolute essence; that essence in itself which is intuitive; like silhouettes or shadows that the human psyche recognizes naturally, need not be spoken aloud yet are immediately relatable, provocative, and revealing.
Without the definable is the answer, without the form is the shape. Christa Van Der Meer’s textiles and clothing is an extension of this human form. The emotive colors and textiles express as much as the sculptural pieces in every detail. Her African and Dutch inspired textiles and headpieces present us with visual cues for thought. Richly rooted in humanness, culture, history, and heritage; and not solely for the functionality of clothing oneself.
Hello Christa, you are based in The Hague, what do you like about the place?
Hello! I like the calmness and relaxed atmosphere in The Hague compared to Amsterdam for example, I would only go to Amsterdam for a day and come back.
How did your Design Education in The Hague, Boras and Copenhagen influence your works?
I studied at the Fashion Department of The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague which focuses in the development of students as independent Fashion Designers. You are free to work in a very conceptual way and there is a close connection with the Textile department., something that shows in the work of the students. The great thing is that you work on actual collections rather early from the second year on, so you learn how to balance color, shapes and details in a collection early in your studies.
During my exchange at the Swedish School of Textiles in Boras I learned a more business-like approach to design where fast decision making and a perfect technical execution are self-evident. After that, I got the opportunity to do an internship at the design team of Henrik Vibskov's Studio. He is a master at presenting a complete and crazy world where installations, music, art, fashion, and even smell, come together. At the same time he manages to present a stunning wearable collection with beautiful prints and mad knitwear. The company feels like family, including kooky uncles and silly cousins. It showed me how to create new visual worlds while playing with the surroundings and maintaining a certain quality clothing wise. Besides, I now know that the fashion business isn’t all that mean and can be a friendly place too.
I simply love Henrik Vibskov, it really is true that some people have a lot of fun in the Fashion Business. Now, it seems that you are also working with Portraiture, together with this other Fashion Design aspect in your work. In what way does the process of designing differ from working on portraiture to you?
I would say it is not so different as one might think. Portrait is the basis of my visual statement, and I expand my vision of the portrait with collages. Collage is a medium for me to connect my portraits with my Fashion Design. During the process of the collage, I discover new shapes and color settings before putting them into textiles.
What inspires your portraiture?
My inspirations come from paintings and photographs. I like Artists such as Marlene Dumas, Lucien Freud, and Francis Bacon. They are all portrait artists, I like that Marlene Dumas put people on display in an honest way, dreamy, telling a whole story. Francis Bacon distorts the face making it fascinating. Also August Sander’s photographs are always an inspiration.
How is your process of drawing and painting portraits?
I usually take ready-made images such as a photograph and I keep them with me in order to take some time to study them and getting to know them well before drawing or painting them. I draw from pictures of people and observe what expression or emotion they are trying to communicate. One only needs to see 1% of a face to recognize it as a face, and you can play with the shapes and expressions afterwards. The face is so much connected to an identity; in fact, most of a face is identity, emotions, expressions and proportions. I try to take the different parts of the face as silhouettes and shapes and reconsider shapes and expressions. For me it is like being in a laboratory and playing with beauty and ugliness.
What working process do you follow with your Designs? I see that you have a strong influence of Ethnic textiles and headpieces.
Proportion is something I play with in clothes, for me they don’t always have to be elegant and beautiful. I also try to create a new perspective with clothing rather than wearable function. I see my clothes as solid forms of statues or sculptures. I like traditional African Textiles, but also from Denmark and Holland. African Textile is so graphical, people actually tell a story with the print they choose to wear. In Europe the textile are not as outspoken. There is a traditional dress from Afro Surinamese women called Kotomisse which inspired my collection IMINJINJU(meaning passion in Zulu), the dress drapes in such a way that it doesn’t show the body of a woman at all, yet it still looks rich and compliments their body without being sexy or elegant. The women look vibrant. I also used Dutch traditional head pieces called Zeeuwse Klederdracht. I want to emphasize the face, head and shoulders with these headpieces.
Will you show your clothing collection during Fashion Week in the future? We are looking forward to seeing your next collections.
No, for my next collection I am working on a short film as presentation. I would rather present it in a Gallery type of setting. I would like people to meditate and observe the details in my work. There is much to see already in my textile, prints and the backdrops.