We had the good fortune of connecting with Dewi Plass and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dewi, how do you think about risk?
For me, taking risk signifies a conscious move out of a comfort zone, which I believe is essential for both personal and professional growth. Personally, taking risks is not something that comes naturally. From an early age my perfectionism often got the best of me, and it led me to develop a paralyzing performance anxiety that prevented me from going to school between the age of 12 and 16. I did everything to escape the risk of ‘not being good enough’ and sought comfort in art, music, and being at home. However, it became apparent through time that in order to stay true to myself and to pursue my dreams, this comfort zone needed to be overcome and personal risks – however trivial they may have seemed to others – needed to be taken. Through this process I learned about the importance of finding a safe haven, a place in which I can create, while simultaneously kicking myself out of that place on a regular basis in order to reflect, learn and mediate between my lived reality and my personal and professional goals and dreams. In this light, taking risks also means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, which I consider to be one of the most powerful ways of being. Being vulnerable is like sending yourself an invitation to inhabit a liminal space filled with possibilities that can only be embraced with an open heart and an open mind. Nothing is definitive in this space. And I believe that this is where growth lies, and where I as a person, an artist and as an entrepreneur have found ways to grow and cater to my dreams in the most sincere possible way.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I try not to overanalyze my work by placing it in a comparative perspective. There’s an urge I feel to create, and it’s this urge I need to cater to. It’s pretty simple, really. It’s impossible for me to not think about work, whether it’s emails I need to answer or a painting I want to paint. There is always a story unfolding itself in my mind and it’s important for me to just let that be. I am convinced that as soon as I would try to define my work, its pure essence is being compromised and that’s something I want to prevent from happening. I prefer to see my work as a visual invitation to defamiliarize the familiar and to move away from any form of taken-for-grantedness which, I hope, creates a new appreciation of our lives and the creatures that inhabit it. In a sense, my art is just the beginning of a story that’s waiting to be created in the minds of those who perceive it. I’m not here to define what that story must be, I’m here to initiate it. I guess it’s fair to say that my work has come from a very intuitive place to begin with. I never wanted to go to art school as I was afraid that it would cripple my passion and creativity, and so I pursued an academic career in visual- and cultural anthropology from which I received my master’s degree in 2014. Shortly after this, I embarked on a trip through the US. Within the first couple of days of my travels I got introduced to an amazing art gallery, Arch Enemy Arts, in Philadelphia. I felt an immediate connection with this place, and it brought a new kind of life into my creative self – even though I didn’t realize this at first. Unbeknownst to me, it became the start of my art career, and within a year from my first introduction to the gallery I created three small paintings of which two got selected for their annual group show “Small Wonders”- giving me a small glimmer of hope that this ‘art adventure’ may have much more in store for me than I had ever imagined. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been given the chances that have brought me to where I am now – I’ve been able to create four solo shows since my first group show at Arch Enemy Arts, and I’ve been given the chance to participate in group shows across the globe. In hindsight I think I would have learned a lot if I had attended art school, but I also believe that the detour that I took has shaped the work I that get to create now. The most difficult part of being an artist has been, and still is, to not completely submerge myself in my work and realize that every now and then it’s ok to leave my studio. I can be incredibly tough on my self ( 4am to 11pm workdays are no exception), and I am never really satisfied with my work, but at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way as I know it’s this kind of dedication that has brought me to where I am now.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in a relatively small town in the Netherlands, close to the country’s oldest city, Nijmegen. It’s a wonderful city near one of the main rivers of the country and it’s surrounded by a variety of nature reserves that provide you with the perfect ingredients for a nice, relaxing and inspiring day out. I would first go for a walk through the city centre, that shows all kinds of historical sites, and I would then go for a drink in the oldest cafe in the city “In de blaauwe hand”. Only a 10 minute drive away, you find a great selection of forest trails, of which one leads to a wonderful hidden ‘pannenkoekenhuis’ (a pancake house) called “de Duivelsberg”, located in the middle of the forest. It is one of my favorite places to go to, and their ‘devil’s pancake’ – soaked in rum and then ‘flambéed – is definitely a spectacular way to end the day. The benefits of living in a small country like the Netherlands is that it’s so easy to travel from one side of the country to the other in a relatively short time, which opens up A LOT of possibilities for day trips. The must see museums for me are the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Het Mauritshuis (the Hague), and Het Rembrandthuis (Amsterdam). My favorite art gallery is Jaski gallery (Amsterdam) which is also a great place to visit when you’re in the city. No matter what the destination of a day trip is, though, my recommendation would be to just walk. To me, this is the best way to explore the character of any city, and without a doubt you’ll find an experience that’s not listed on any website out there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My biggest shout out is dedicated to my parents, who supported me through thick and thin – even when my anxieties got the best of me. Their continued and unconditional support is something I cherish, and something I thank them for every single day. There is no doubt in my mind that without this, I wouldn’t have become the person I am now. A couple of other people who deserve a shoutout are the wonderful people at Arch Enemy Arts, Lawren and Noah, for seeing something in my work at such an early stage and for supporting me all along the way to where I am now. Paul Romano and Darla Jackson, for their great friendship and for the fact they make me feel at home even when I’m on the other side of the planet. And last but not least, The Dillinger Escape Plan, my favorite band and biggest incentive to get out of my comfort zone and travel the world – it’s safe to say that without my passion for their music I wouldn’t be where I am now.
© Dewi Plass