Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Heart of a Twitter Artist

This is cross-posted in the Huffington Post Culture Section.

Art has always been an important part of civilization. It provides a road map of where we have been, shows us who we are, and gives us an idea of what's possible. Stylistically and substantively, social media is increasingly playing a part in the work of some 21st century artists like Gaby Zwaan.

Originally from The Netherlands, Zwaan made a huge splash at this year's 140 Conference, which is long respected as a winning platform for both emerging talent and dynamic personalities. And he clearly made the most of his appearance. Dressed in a cool suit and sneakers, his energetic presentation and Twitter-themed art made him an instant audience favorite.

Zwaan's work is masterful, thought-provoking, visually-stunning, and brilliantly expressive. I'm sure this is what the Tour de France organization saw when they approached him in 2010 for a project. As an arts geek, I can tell you that there are probably 140 reasons to love and appreciate the work of Gaby Zwaan. Maybe even 141. Either way, his star is on the rise.

You were the big draw at Jeff Pulver's huge 140 Conference back in June. Everyone loved your art. What has the experience been for you since then?

I really liked being at the #140conf. It was interesting and a great way for me to show myself. Speaking on stage with Jeffrey Hayzlett was really great and painting two twitter-inspired pieces the next day topped it off. But what was the icing on the cake was the love of all the people that where there and came to talk to me. I always love it when people tell me what my work makes them feel like or what it reminds them off. After the 140 conference, I was also in New York for a meeting with a gallery. They loved my work and in early October, I will be showing in New York City. A dream come true! I also signed on with an agency that will represent me in the USA.Once home I started painting for my NYC show and got all 14 pieces done.

I can tell you love Twitter from some of your artwork. How does the site's 140 character platform appeal to you?

Yes I do like twitter. I see it as a way to show people what I'm doing, and more important, what I'm all about. When Van Gogh, another famous Dutch painter had something to share he always wrote letters to his brother. I was in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and I saw some of those letters on the walls there. I have a vision that one day my tweets will be on a wall in a museum. I see twitter as part of my DNA. It is just as important to me as the paint I use. Could not do what I do without both.

One of Zwaan's Twitter-inspired paintings.

Courtesy of Gaby Zwaan.

How important do you think art has been to civilization?

When I check the news every day I almost have to think there is no civilization anymore. So I hope art was not important to getting us into this mess. What I do think is that all forms of art will bring us some positive light that will get us through this mess and hopefully back to a bit more civilized world. And I can only hope that at least one person that looks at my work and has a better day then he/she would have had if my art was not there.

Who are some of the artist who have influenced, inspired, and/or shaped your artistic vision?

I have to say none actually. I only started painting in the summer of 2007 and before that I thought art was uninteresting. I never went to a museum. Well, once but that was to impress a girl (laughs). I knew some painters, mostly the Dutch masters but that was about it. Once I started painting I started to get interested in art. Somehow people always want to compare your work/style to other artists and I've been compared to many many but different ones all the time.

What influenced me is the way street artists think and the way they act. I like that and I think that it helped me to do just what I feel like doing. I like doing stuff with balls and that is what street artist do too. I like to take on the impossible, like showing in a amazing gallery in New York. That's something I just went for even though some people said it was not going to happen at this point in my career. When people tell me I will not get there, it inspires me the most. I'm like an athlete, I want to win. And then once I cross the finish line, I put the bar higher again. I thrive on challenges.

For more info on Gaby Zwaan and his amazing, eclectic work, follow him on his Twitter feed and check out his personal site.

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