Interview: Chaotic Bastards Talk Art and Curating Green Label Gallery – Amsterdam
The Green Label Gallery art submissions are coming in at an amazing pace, setting an exciting tone for gallery creation in Amsterdam later this month. As you guys probably already know, the Dutch foursome known as Chaotic Bastards are on board to curate the exhibition and help choose the greatest works of art to be on display in Amsterdam. If you’re wondering what makes them the authority for art in the Netherlands, keep reading to have Thomas van Sonsbeek and Lindsey Vitalli — two of the four talented artists in their collective — break down the basics for you.
Can you guys give us a quick rundown of who you are as a collective and how art brought you together?
Thomas van Sonsbeek: We actually didn’t really know each other in the beginning. We got this big project that had us paint all the walls of a club, and through the passion of making art, we all became close friends. Now we make art quite regularly together. We call ourselves the Chatoic Bastards because our art is quite chaotic. We paint right through each other and we even paint each other’s pieces. Our art style really influenced everything.
Lindsey Vitalli: We’re basically comprised of four people, three guys — Thomas van Sonsbeek, Danny Chang and Meyourewa Benkemper — and a girl, me. All four of us have a different style. Some of us are more realistic, like Thomas and me, while the other two guys are more abstract and organic. They draw pictures using lines, squares and circles. Meyourewa does that. From those four styles, we combine them and copy from each other. We do that regularly in our artwork.
Thomas van Sonsbeek: At the very beginning, we had a very different style. As Lindsey said, we were mostly realistic and a bit comic. I did manga and Lindsey had more of a Western comic style. After we all started copying each other, our styles slowly started to root together. It got to the point where you couldn’t tell whether four people or just one person made it.
One thing that’s very noticeable about the Chaotic Bastards’ style is that you guys use a lot of textures, and like you mentioned earlier, shapes, but then it’s very black and white with a pop of color. Where does the decision to do little details like that come from?
Thomas: We don’t really decide. [laughs]
Lindsey: We never decide!
Thomas: Most of the time we just improvise. We don’t usually think about anything except having as much fun as we can have while making it, and letting our minds run free.
Lindsey: The environment that we’re in also affects the work. If the atmosphere and people around us are different, we make different artwork. It’s fun because everything we make is always different.
Thomas: When we want to add color to it, the other two guys either do it or have to live with it.
Speaking of being inspired by areas, the Netherlands is such a culturally diverse location. How does Dutch culture resonate into your art?
Thomas: We do add a lot of cultures into our style. We’ll often use mythological creatures and stuff from all different types of culture. That directly reflects the diverse makeup of Amsterdam, especially with the various cultures we see around here. Our friends are from all over the world, and I would say that it made our art more diverse in the process.
Since you guys like to throw Japanese manga in the mix every now and then, what are some of the premier mangas that come to mind in terms of your favorites?
Thomas: That’s a hard one.
Lindsey: All four of us really like the Studio Ghibli movies. Those truly inspire us.
Thomas: Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and stuff like those movies are great.
Lindsey: Thomas draws manga a lot, too.
Thomas: I do have a large collection of mangas in my home. I have like 230 of them. I recently read a series called Rainbow [Nisha Rokubō no Shichinin]. It’s about a couple of guys who get into prison and try to survive together. It has a Word War II setting. The art style was amazing and the story was intense. That’s the first thing that popped into my mind as well. Ghibli is great, though.
Lindsey: For us, it’s more about the story than how it’s drawn. Don’t get us wrong. The drawing is important, but the story behind it captivates you.
Those qualities always seem to bring viewers deeper into the work. They’ll see it and immediately want to know more about that piece. Isn’t it amazing how art inspires stories?
Thomas: We definitely agree with that.
Lindsey: 100 percent.
Let’s talk the Mountain Dew Green Label Gallery for a bit. How did you guys get involved in the Amsterdam activation?
Thomas: Mountain Dew contacted us through PUP agency, and we were asked to participate. They thought our style would really fit into Green Label Gallery. We’re really enthusiastic about it. The expectations we have for it are great. All the artists are sending in their work and we’re looking to make one big piece out of projects from all over the world, and then add our own spin to it. Our style is pretty good for filling up walls.
Has the creative process gotten to the point where you guys are checking out spots or submissions yet?
Thomas: We definitely are checking out works right now. Any artists sending pieces right now are on our radar, and we’re making selections from that batch. Everyone can send in their own drawing or painting, and we’ll take the ones that resonate and use them in a bigger piece. I guess you can say that we’re already working on it. We’ve received hundreds of submissions in just the first week!
That’s perfect! What’s the vibe of the content you guys have seen so far?
Thomas: There are some really realistic pieces, a lot of manga and hand drawings.
Lindsey: We’re really connecting to the different and introspective pieces.
Thomas: Anything that resonates with us will get chosen.
Being that you guys have four different artistic aspects, does it ever get hard working together, or do the different perspectives always work to make a better project?
Lindsey: We don’t argue that much, aside from the more playful arguing. We always try to help and understand each other.
Thomas: Someone can make a drawing and then something happens to screw up the entire thing. That hardly ever happens, though. However, in the beginning, we would look at something and think it was the worst thing ever made. [laughs] Working together allows us to help each other out and use our different ideas and opinions to create something entirely different.
The art of great synergy. What are some of your expectations for the Green Label Gallery project as it progresses?
Thomas: We’re always trying to find new ways to improve our style, and we’ve always been huge on working with other artists as well. This is a great opportunity to work with people who we don’t even know, and create something completely different from what we’ve been doing. It’s always good to find a project that’s so different from the other projects we have. It has also been a way to find out more about these artists on a personal level. It’ll definitely help us with our own work.
How does this help you guys plan for the future, especially in terms of upcoming projects?
Lindsey: One thing we really want for the future is to have our own working space. We want a Chaotic Bastards headquarters. [laughs] From there, we’ll just be doing our own work so that we can sell it and develop it into our own styles. All of the amazing ideas we have can only work if we have our own workspace.
Thomas: Most of the time, our work is assignment-based, so we want to create our own stuff. We also want to make our own T-shirts. That would be awesome.