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Pores Wide Close. Interview to Carla van de Puttelaar.

The skin is such a versatile part of us. So sensitive and fragile, but also strong and protective.

The Pois cultural director Francisco Lacerda presents an exclusive interview to the amazing Dutch artist Carla van de Puttelaar. Francisco Lacerda questions were focused on the relation between women, art, sexuality, light and nature.

Photo: Carla van de Puttelaar (ass. Fred Meijer)

Carla was born in 1967, Zaandam. She currently lives and works in Amsterdam
as an artist/photographer, Art Historian (Ph.D) and Lecturer (for example at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague).

Recently five portraits from the Women in the Art World series have been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased through a generous grant from the Bern Schwartz Family Foundation. Her works were already been displayed at Sotheby´s, The Rembrandt House, Christie’s Amsterdam, National Portrait Gallery,

FL – What is the most beautiful part of woman´s body?

CP – I cannot single out one part, as it differs with each person. Sometimes it is a spot in the neck where a vein is visible, sometimes the hands or a breast.  But overall the skin is the most important part. The skin is such a versatile part of us. So sensitive and fragile, but also strong and protective. From the outside, it has a fine structure and many tiny hairs, but at some places the veins clearly shine through. The appearance of the skin changes by emotion or sensation, such as a blush or goose flesh. It is very sensitive to touch, and it has in most cases an immense capability to heal when wounded.

Carla van de Puttelaar, Untitled, c-print
Carla van de Puttelaar, Sassoferrato Series, 2011, Archival Pigment Print

FL – Natural light is the only light in your work?

CP – Yes (except for one or two exceptions). I love the versatility of natural light. The cool northern light, but also the warm sunlight shining through a window, sometimes filtered by curtains. Natural light can be very unpredictable, and that makes it even more fascinating and challenging. It triggers my creativity and I am often so enchanted by the beauty of a particular moment. It can  overpower me like a wave of intense beauty.

Carla van de Puttelaar, Untitled, 2000, c-print

FL – Rembrandt or Rubens are two important artist in your work. How do they changed the way you work?

CP – I was asked in 2015 to make a series inspired by Rembrandt’s nudes for the Rembrandt House Museum. Of course I was well acquainted with Rembrandt’s work before that, but when I was looking at his work intensively on a daily basis, the understanding and impact became much larger. To see the inspiration of an artist with his subjects, light, the challenges, delights and rewards. Also the way Rembrandt experimented, how he caught the light in his etchings and paintings. It is fascinating to analyse how he built up his compositions and what means he used.

I was looking at his work intensively on a daily basis, the understanding and impact became much larger.

Carla van de Puttelaar

Carla van de Puttelaar, Untitled, 1999, c-print

I found definite similarities to my own work, but also it triggered me into new experiments and new paths to walk on and to explore. It helped me to develop my work further in very fast way. Sometimes it felt like I was sitting in a high speed train (I often actually still do), and that my thoughts are going so fast that I can hardly keep up in body and available time. My work became more intense, dynamic and light and the light in the shadow, became an even bigger feature in my work.

Rubens is an artist that I admire as well and what I like very much in his work is his ability to enlarge the story, to make it very theatrical, to think big and work in a bold and sculptural way. My work has stillness, but in a way it is bold and sculptural as well. I wanted to explore this part of my work more intensely and make it more theatrical.

Carla van de Puttelaar, Untitled, 2001, c-print

However, many other artists and also just daily life have influenced me and continue to do so. I look at many works by both famous and less famous artists from all kinds of backgrounds and periods, and in daily life I use my phone a lot to register many things that capture my eye and that I can keep for posterity in this way. This constant hunger of my eye drives me to the edges of my ability.

FL – Do you find a connection between flowers and woman body?

CP – Absolutely, many, especially in the skin. For example the petals of flowers and especially tulips are fascinating, they turn from still opaque skin into lean, half transparent flowing forms in which the veins are clearly visible, just like the veins in the older skin of a woman that shine through the tin skin. And the elegance and the circle of life so clearly expressed in a flower, has a strong connection to me as an artist: Drama and Beauty.

Carla van de Puttelaar, Hortus Nocturnum, 2012, Archival Pigment Print

FL – Who are you main reference in literature, visual art and music?

CP – As I mentioned before, I have countless ones and each day more are added. I am not only an artist, but also an art historian, and I did a PhD on Scottish Portraiture 1644-1714. I look at art all hours of the day. I find it such a joy to explore, to find and to create. This is also clearly expressed in my current project of portraits of Women in the Art World (

However, I will mention some examples that have touched and inspired me since I have known them. Starting with literature I would like to mention the Dutch author Rudy Kousbroek. His ability to catch emotions, to write so beautifully about women, language, mathematical problems, travels, cats and other animals. And Jane Austen, who was the master in wit and analysing human nature. In visual arts there so many, but the painting that always touches me deeply is the Descend from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden in the Prado in Madrid. The overall drama, the force of the composition and story, the virtuosity of the painter who shows his brilliance even in the tiniest details. And whereas also there my taste goes from Gregorian music to Frank Zappa, my first love was opera, and I still get most emotional by hearing O mio babbino caro, from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and Ah, perdona al primo affetto, from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. In the end it is mostly about love, drama and passion.

By Francisco Lacerda: Francisco Lacerda is an artist, cultural critic and creative director of Pois. He writes for Pois since 2018. He also writes for other social media websites and he is a international art curator. Francisco studied in Lisbon and London, where he learned about art, management and luxury. Francisco Lacerda is responsible for major interviews: Duane MichalsEdouard TaufenbachAnthony ListerManuel Braun.

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