Ahead of 'The Amsterdam Trip' here at Urban Nerds spent some valuable time to interview a young artist who has made his trip to Amsterdam permanent. We took the time to understand the transition, discover the culture and unfold influences behind Joe's art.
Joe Holbrook is an English born self taught painter. Born in 1988 and raised in Kent, South East England, Holbrook has found himself interacting with many different social groups since he was a teen; all with different interests and personalities.
Fascinated by societies constant lust for good times and enjoyment, he finds himself socialising with people from all walks of life in every city he visits - taking his inspiration from some of the more darker, sinister aspects of young adult life. Characters who are seen to have the "devil may care" party attitudes or those who embrace the "live fast die young" mentality deep into the night are those Holbrook seeks out.
Through his work Holbrook reflects these characters, attitudes and the immediate surroundings of his social life, seen through his own eyes. He feels it necessity and dutiful of the artist to document and translate the generation from which they come from, capturing and telling the story as they see and experience it.
When and why did you move to Amsterdam?
I first came to Amsterdam in 2007 on an InterRail. I stayed in the red light for 2 nights and hated it. In 2009 I was invited to take part in a group exhibition by a man called Jeroen Smeets who is now very close to my heart. This time I saw the true Amsterdam and fell in love with its charm, the community, and the way of life that is lived by so many creative minds here. I was back and forth for a year but decided to move here in 2010. I gave myself a year to give it a try and see what it would be like living abroad, it's now been 3 years.
How does the Dutch underground culture compare to the Uk scene? What's the biggest difference?
The underground scene here is similar to that of London just a bit smaller. However I feel the underground scenes in London don't seem to last that long, there are too many people wanting to profit from it and they turn what's happening into a fad and ruin the vibe for those that are true to it. You get that here also but people are less inclined to signing up to it without thinking about the long term. Although maybe I know nothing of the London underground scene and those involved, as it's truly underground.
Who are the big names on the Dutch graff circuit?
Graffiti in the Amsterdam center, at least "bombing" is awesome, the people who are considered in London as "old school" you won't find here. Of course you have old school heads here like Oase, Yalt, Shoe, etc., but the old school of Amsterdam have never stopped, they are still up in all seasons since the 80's and 90's and show no sign of stopping. Amsterdam gets buffed 2-3 times a year but the locals keep it going. Tourists also leave their mark, especially the London heads, this year was KC. As far as big names go these days I guess you have to know about Twice and Gears crew, LD and Rakie and Edges crew, FMK.
You style is pretty unique how would you describe it in 3 words?
Dirty, Dreamy, and Current
Do you draw any influences from Amsterdam's rich street culture in your work?
I'm very influenced by street culture as I'm all about documenting my current surroundings, and generation, so my work is immersed in this world. It is also one of the reasons I live in this place.
Which other artists do you admire / respect?
Many old masters from Caravaggio, to Rembrandt, I also like some American artists like Homer Winslow, and Edward Hopper. I am also a big fan of David Hockney, and a sucker for Damian Hirst because of his visions and aspirations, I don't care if he doesn't make it fiscally, he makes his ideas reality and when I stand in front of his pieces I feel the things he sets out to tell or translate.
You have a gallery show on during ADE - how closely is music linked to your work?
Music is the reason for everything! It is the base to everything I document, weather it is the fashion of someone to the way they act. Music is responsible for the vibe, and which people go to different bars or social gathering points in every city. To find what I want to paint I must think about the scene and who goes there so in turn I think of which music is being played, and the people it attracts and lastly if I will enjoy it, after all I'm not going to paint something I didn't enjoy witnessing.
Give us some info on where your show is and what to expect?
My show is to be held at the C&H art space a beautiful and fairly young gallery in Amsterdam. My most recent work is centered around a series of snapshots from my life, many of which are shrouded by drug use and a reflection of young social life and my surroundings in Amsterdam.
How will you be spending your time during ADE?
Well I have my family over and my show on the 19th so I will be with them. But on the 18th I will be at the Numbers x Lockdown at the Paradiso for a little dance and catching up with the Urban Nerds crew.
Some words of wisdom please?
Sights can be viewed from more then one point, there are two sides to every story, and lastly you can fool everybody else but you cant fool yourself! I have a Facebook page called Joe Holbrook. I will be updating regularly and will soon be on twitter and instagram so follow me if you're interested in my work or myself. www.joeholbrook.co.uk