George Harvey: Hello
Rein Vollenga: Hi
GH: So maybe you should tell us about who you are and what you do.
RV: I'm Rein Vollenga. I'm a Dutch artist and I'm based in Berlin. I'm a sculptural artist, and I work within fashion and art. I exhibit my work in galleries and museums but I also show my work during London and Paris Fashion Week. I have been collaborating with several fashion brands, performers and artists, like Kokon to Zai, Mugler, New Power Studio. Performers - I've been working with Lady Gaga, Japanese hip hop artists, and also a lot of London underground artists like Jonny Woo, Feral aka Mc Kinki and Japanese artist Hanayo.
GH: Other than your collaborations, talk about your other works of art, your sculptures.
RV: I actually collect a lot of objects that, in my opinion, are very ambiguous because they have this… they are very organic, most of the time, and, on the other hand, they look very mass-produced. All the objects I collect, I collect them in supermarkets, flea markets, everywhere I go. I'm a very visual person, so I always screen shops and places around me for new shapes and objects that I can use in my work. All these objects that I collect come together in my studio where I have a cabinet of objects. From there I start working by cutting up pieces and gluing them together, creating completely new objects that are not functional, but they have… more like a visual function. So, after assembling these objects into a new piece, I cover them in epoxy. I hand melt epoxy all over the objects and start carving and cutting, cutting the actual shape I would like them to be. It's a lot of handwork, it's very hands-on.
GH: So, the objects are entirely handmade?
RV: Yeah, I don't reproduce pieces. I love making art, objects. That's really what I enjoy.
GH: And no computers or digital input at all?
RV: No. I do everything. With my vision and my hands. I think it's also quite challenging because lots of objects that you see around you, nowadays, are all mass-produced. And what I always miss in seeing a lot of produced work… it kind of loses its soul. And making things by hand, you really see the signature of the artist. I have to say, because I'm from a working class family, it's really hard to get work out of hands to a factory. I think that's very bourgeois…
GH: Let's move on to fashion collaborations. How did that all start?
RV: I actually started when I was in art school. In school I made sculptures and videos. And, when I was making those videos I combined my sculptural work and my video work together. So, I made objects, like props, for my videos and from there it just started growing. I have to say, a couple of years ago, Nicola Formichetti saw my work, and he asked me to collaborate with him for Mugler. I started working more on wearable pieces. So, from there I got more in contact with stylists, musicians, and performers. And it started rolling from there...
GH: Exciting! And what's the plan now? Am I right in thinking you are starting to do wearable collections?
RV: I did that in the past but they are actually more a series of works. I don't really consider them as collections. My pieces are not ready-to-wear. They are mostly used for photoshoots or music videos or art projects… Now I'm working on a project that's more based on costume design. I am collaborating with a choreographer who is called Damien Jalet. He's working on a performance at the Louvre, in Paris. I did some costume design together with Bernhard Willhelm, Undercover and Alexandra Mein. The nicest thing about this project is that the fashion gets shown in an art context, in more like a performance narrative. I would like to do that more in the future. More costume design. And, even, I would like to push it to stage design. I think that will be very interesting, as my designs are very extreme.
GH: So, you've been working with artists and performers and singers. If you could design a piece for anyone who would it be?
RV: Good question.
RV: I have a few people that I would like to work with. For instance, Bjork. I've admired her since I was a teenager, I've been listening to her music and admired her work. I'm also still a really big fan of Roisin Murphy. I would love to make something of her. Yeah, that’s it for now.
GH: Let's get them to give you a call.
RV: Yep. Give me a call!!!
GH: And the shots we've just taken today. The mask shots. Can you tell us about the collaboration?
RV: I created these for Kokon to Zai, for the AW/13 collection. The collection is inspired by tribal prints, especially Borneo-style, the tattoo style. So what I tried to do was make some really tribal masks, kind of futuristic as well but also very tribal. There are also elements of sports protection.
GH: And finally, do you have any plans for exhibiting in the future? So people can get up close to your work?
RV: Well the first thing that's coming up is at Louvre, in February. Next I'm working on a series of large scale sculptures. But that is for the future...
GH: A secret?
RV: Yeah. A secret.