1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Stijn Jonckheere, I grew up in Belgium but moved to Munich, Germany after graduating as an architect. Already during my studies I started making a lot of drawings. A few years later I broke cover as a visual artist, having several solo exhibitions, while working as a designer in a leading architecture office. After some moderate successes I decided to jump ship and started working as an art director in a well-known communications agency. I’m currently back and forth between Germany and Switzerland, as I was invited to teach a masterclass in experimental architectural design at EPFL in Lausanne.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
No doubt my work has a strong architectural feel to it. It’s all about contrast; detailed fragments versus abstract shapes, overkill versus whitespace, huge fill-ins versus thin lines. Modern printing techniques versus old paper found in the attic. Monochrome. My fascination with numerals is reflected in my work as well; all fonts used in my work I designed myself.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Digital. I always think in terms of space as apposed to shapes or lines, which results in me 3D modeling everything my brain comes up with. Only after I’m done sculpting I’ll decide what will come of my design: a logo, an illustration, a poster, a font… I don’t like to limit myself to certain types of output.
4. What is your artistic process like?
I carry a sketchbook with me most of the time. When inspiration hits, I’ll do some quick sketches and write down some keywords that describe whatever inspires me. I don’t really document things; I take just enough notes to be able to remember the general atmosphere.
Going over my notes at a later time, I’ll trigger a memory and let my imagination run wild. I’ll recreate the memory yet on my own terms, using my own visual elements. The result is an alter-ego of the original atmosphere, of the original space, building, or object which inspired me. In the end, visual resemblance between reality and the parallel universe I’ve created is usually close to null. It all sounds a bit complicated, but it’s a process which feels very natural to me and goes rather quick as well.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I’m inspired by spaces, or better yet, the moods they set. How a street curves, how a building is deteriorating. I love the city during nightfall: the way darkness blurs sharp lines and how lighting takes on a much bigger role in understanding what you see.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
Being creative is a necessity for me to be happy, to feel fulfilled. I’ll archive a freshly finished piece, knowing that nobody will probably ever see it again (including myself) and I’ll still get a huge sense of fulfillment. Creating helps me to structure my thoughts, and in doing so helps me to deal with most other aspects of life.
7. Where did you study?
KU Leuven – Campus Sint-Lucas, Brussels, Belgium. Great school with equally great teachers, located in an old furniture factory / showroom.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully having a few more exhibitions under my belt, and climbing the ranks within the creative industry. I would love to collaborate with some bigger clients on campaigns, using my visuals to replace some of those horrible ads we see in our streets all day.
9. What about in ten?
A lot can happen in ten years. I could name a lot of clichés about being healthy and happy which are of course all true. I do wonder though, how long a person can stay inspired and be able to create things. Some days I get genuinely scared that it might all disappear. It would be great to still have that fire burning in ten years, still challenging that white piece of paper.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I can only hope that, after seeing my work, people will think less in terms of labels or categories. Crossing creative borders is a good thing to do, and it is necessary to evolve as a creative person. If that is too big of a thing to hope for, then let my work at least be a testimony for a more spontaneous, intuitive design process within architecture.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Wherever I go, I have to try the desserts. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs, so sugar turned out to be my vice. Lissabon’s Pastéis de Belém take the top spot, with those deep-fried Oreos I ate in New York being a close second.
12. Favourite book?
“Vermillion Sands” by J.G. Ballard. I’ve read most of his short stories, but Vermillion Sands inspired me the most. The second short in the book, “The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista” opened a whole new world to me back when I was still a student.
13. Favourite genre of music?
My dad introduced me to Guru’s “Jazzmatazz”, which made a huge impression on me. To this day I still play one of those albums whenever I start drawing. As the hours go by I either blend in more hiphop or electronic tracks, depending on my mood. Anything from the Stones Throw or Numbers label is usually a sure shot.
14. What are your hobbies?
Cycling. I love getting up at dawn, putting on my cycling kit and going for a pre-work ride, when the rest of the world is still asleep. Riding my bike is one of the very few things that really clears my mind, and it also helps to burn off all those sweets I can’t stop eating.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Batman. Just joking. Or am I?