Interview Isrid van Geuns | Published in the WFC 50 year anniversary book | October 2017
You are part of a team of experts in the TV show ‘The master’s secret’, taped at a WFC location. What made you pick that specific location?
“In ‘The Master’s Secret’ we are given the ultimate challenge to reconstruct a variety of Dutch masterpieces. The show is hosted by artist Jasper Krabbé and he is leading our team of experts. I am a replica painter as part of this team. The show’s producer picked the location at the WFC because he likes to approach the process from a forensic, scientific angle. It allows for perfect light exposure due to the wrap around windows and it is completely white. It also allows the cameras to shoot from different angles. The security of the building is excellent and we have 24 hours a day access. The space is located on the fifth floor of Tower One. I was involved for two seasons, spending about 4 months per season at the WFC.”
Artist and Fine Art Restorer
We don’t find a lot of people being trained to become an art restorer. Why did you decide on this program?
“I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember and I always knew I would like to make it my profession one day. The obvious choice would have been to join the Academy of Art after completing my high school education. I graduated at the highest level in high school and since I was an excellent student, I decided to go to university instead. I needed to find a study in which I could use my brain as well as my hands. I was not accepted to join the dentistry program. I was made aware of the program Fine Art restoration by one of my deans. In those days it was a very exclusive and private program which allowed only six people every three years to enter into. It is a post graduation program, so I first studied Art History before I was accepted to join the program of Fine Art restoration. I enjoyed working on different paintings but because of all the hours of study that came with it, I was unable to find the time to paint and draw myself. The head of the program understood my frustration and offered me to specialise in old painting techniques and materials. From that point on I was also able to focus on replications which is what I do for the show. In the end, I was able to take on reconstruction assignments for museums, I would occasionally teach at the university of Amsterdam and I still found plenty of time to paint myself. In the end it was the perfect road to travel and it took me to where I am today.”
As we are standing in your studio, we are looking at a piece of art you are currently working on. Can you tell us about it?
“The paper is considered the actual foundation of this piece, it was left over from the Rubens episode. It is made out of old rags. You will notice small rust stains and it still shows a fold from where it was attached to something else at some point. I feel really inspired being able to work with this kind of material! I had already started to collect seventeenth century paper, wanting to use it for my next project. I have chosen to paint the anatomy of a plant, including roots and clump, on this beautiful paper. In reference to the fall, it shows, just like the paper it is painted on, a sense of beauty and ephemerality.”
The Master’s Secret
How did you come in contact with the producers of the show?
“They were looking to find someone who could do replications and I happen to be the only Dutch person with the right training. I was contacted by Michel van de Laar, who is also an expert on the team of the show. It seemed like a sizable challenge and one that would cause a lot of stress, so I figured I would go and meet, but politely decline. Once talking to the producers I became more curious and excited and figured it would be a valuable adventure and so in the end I said ‘yes’. Working on the show has taught me a lot and it is a beautiful process. We all work very hard and with each episode we seem to be working a little bit harder, even the quality of filming and the final production keeps getting better.”
This project, did it teach you something?
“By nature, I am an introvert person but I don’t want to be known as the drawn back, silent artist. I was taught to step out of my comfort zone and present myself a bit more. I have learned how to act in front of a camera and how to negotiate with my team members. In the end it taught me a valuable life lesson.”
“I don’t follow fashion trends but I do love nice things, including nice clothes and shoes. I generally choose natural materials like wool, silk and leather, I go for quality. Colour is very important and I am very picky when it comes to that. I actually come up with a lot of good ideas but they get stolen by other people! I have ideas about materials, shapes and fashion. Once I saw a documentary about birds of paradise and I instantly felt inspired to base an entire fashion collection on it’s beauty. I don’t act on any of these ideas, I am not sure how to pursue it and I am not able to do it all. For now, I would like to focus on my paintings.”
ISRID is an owner-run agency for access to talent, recruitment and change consultancy, serving an exclusive and high-quality portfolio of clients in the fashion, lifestyle and luxury industry.