Matthijs Scholten

I don't follow trends

Matthijs Scholten is a modern abstract artist from Holland, who is experimenting with color, shape, and images. His work is a combination of avant-garde painting with street art of the 20th century. Inspired by gloomy urban landscapes: graffiti or splashes of paint on the floor of an abandoned building, he reproduces them in vivid images. We had a chance to talk to the artist and open up a bit of his personality and painting motives. Stay with us.

OU: There are many stories of the artists, who came to the art after some struggle and that became a kind of way out of that struggle, either financial or relationships or childhood. Matthijs, how did you start? What’s your story of becoming a contemporary art painter?

MS: I started drawing as a child, like every child. At school and at home. But I kept painting. I always paint. Ten years ago I started trying different materials and began to explore.  First with oil sticks on A6 paper, continuing on a vast canvas with acrylic paint. I have been brought up with art around me. My parents always had paintings hanging around in the house and collected art books. That is how I started to develop my interest in art, artists and started to develop my taste. Later on, I have followed some classes of the artist Lisette Scheers in Kuala Lumpur. But I really started painting in the late nineties.

OU: How did the first painting come out? What was your feeling about it? And what was your friends and family reaction to it?

MS: My first painting I can’t remember. But what I can remember is my first canvas. Starting with the intimidating white canvas was hard. But once I started, I lost my fear. You can check the result yourself on my website The title of that work is “The man who replaced God”.

OU: Who are your biggest influencers?

MS: That is easy. Jean Micheal Basquiat and Picasso Picasso. But I got also inspired on the streets by street art and old ruined buildings, broker materials, and paint splatters.

OU: What’s your philosophy of painting? Are you imagining or thinking about the message you want to convey with your work? Or what you put inside each piece of work?

MS: I make my paintings spontaneously and get inspired by street art, graffiti, and artists like Jean Michael Basquiat. I  feel the pressure of the world. That madness of the world I use in my portraits with the focus in the eyes. I try to catch that pressure on paper, carton, and canvas. That is why it is so wild, colourful and detailed. They are to create distance so that I can feel free again. I hope this explains a little what you see in my portraits and where it is coming from.

OU: Do you have your favourite piece? And is there a story behind it, if you can share? Where did the inspiration come from?

MS: The funny thing is. Sometimes you finish painting, and you are thrilled with the result. But days after it is getting less and less. But I have it also the other way around. At first, you don’t like it, but along the way, you start to love it. Those ‘ugly’ paintings which you start to love more and more are my favourites. One example is the painting called ‘Diddy’. Woodcarvings from Bali inspired me to create this work. At first, I didn’t like it. I put the canvas on the ground in my living room. Every time I passed it I looked at it and started to like it more and more.

OU: Which current art world trends are you following? What or who are you admire?

MS: I don’t follow trends. I like rawness, childish, darkness, spontaneous and colourful things. You can find that in everything when you are looking for it.

OU: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

MS: Friday summer nights, when daylight changes in the darkness of the night, sitting with friends, eating spicy Asian food, and drinking ice and cold beers, listening to the stories that your friends have to tell you with old soul music playing on the background.

OU: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

MS: I would like to come back as a painting “Riding with death” of Jean Michel Basquiat.

OU: If there were no restrictions on you – money, capabilities and so on – what would you do?

MS: Painting all day long in the rainforest in Malaysia.

OU: Also, please tell some about Malaysia, how your trip affected you and your art.

MS: The beautiful thing about Malaysia is that it has several different cultures living together, creating one new culture. It is cool to see that people with different backgrounds and ideas can inspire each other and combine the good things of each other into something new. An easy way to see or to taste that is to try the Malaysian food. They showed me that you could mix and match everything to something new. That inspires me.