Hidden Portraits: Interview with Volker Hermes

Hidden Frédou Photocollage, 2020
Hidden Frédou Photocollage, 2020

The project began around ten years ago, initially inspired by the meaning of the portrait and from what they represent. Volker meticulously analyses and re-works the costumes and poses and in doing so, the details and history, to achieve a contemporary look at how we perceive portraiture. We caught up with the Dusseldorf based artist to find out more about his work and process.

What inspired you to create ‘Hidden Portraits?

It was my reflection as a painter on the social significance of portraiture. Why were such portraits commissioned, what were they supposed to achieve and how were they realised by the artists. 

And then there is the question of how we deal with such paintings today, because we no longer know so much about the codes that are communicated in them.

Why did you choose portraits by Old Masters?

As a painter, I really adore these works. Not only as a heritage, but also as something that influences me today. I think that this amazing art is still relevant today and it deserves to be looked at with contemporary eyes. 

Of course, I don’t want to paint like an old master, because I think that the present requires a different way of painting, but I still want to deal with it artistically. That’s why I chose image editing as a technique.

“I don’t want to paint like an old master, because I think that the present requires a different way of painting.”

Tell us the process behind your work.

Almost every day I browse through online archives and collections of museums and find paintings that interest me. Sometimes, however, I think that they rather find me. I then try to read the painting and work out a concept for my intervention. Well, then everything starts and I put together elements of the painting into new maskings.

What made you want to be an artist?

I don’t know that for sure. Perhaps a will to create, mixed with the need for a kind of freedom.

Hidden Sully Photocollage, 2020
Hidden Sully Photocollage, 2020
Hidden Perronneau Photocollage, 2020
Hidden Perronneau Photocollage, 2020

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