Persona March, 10th 2022 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 355 - Sam Hersbach

sam hersbach – MB 1-

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 355 – Sam Hersbach
At the Billytown exhibition I listened to a podcast / radio play about a certain Baal. He was depicted in the accompanying drawing/painting as an elderly man, staring hazy through his eyes. A cow sniffs Baal on a flight of stairs. The cow just left a turd on the stairs.
A few days later, when I listen to the radio play in full, Baal appears to be in a bare studio-like room, presumably the room at the top of the stairs. He explores that space and encounters various figures, including a Flemish-speaking lady. The story is accompanied by music.

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Radio play in corona time
A few weeks later I am visiting Sam Hersbach who made this radio play together with Vita Soul Wilmering. “We did it in corona time. We had plenty of time. We were both still in the residence De Ateliers in Amsterdam.”
They came up with the story, the characters and provided the sound and music. “Vita Soul Wilmering is a filmmaker and plays various musical instruments. I paint. We could use each other’s qualities. It is about a figure called Baal, who has forgotten his history. He tries to appropriate it again through the figures he encounters. Fantasy and reality intertwine.”

sam hersbach – 3-

Gallery and studios
Sam has been in his studio in The Hague for some time now. Above the Billytown gallery space on the ground floor, on the first floor are many studios of draughtsmen, painters, sculpture and video makers. Sam (26) is one of the youngest. His studio overlooks the grass field of the Van Doeverenplantsoen. In the middle space between the various studios is a large art archive of Peter van Beveren with many publications. Researchers and art students make grateful use of this rich archive.

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In Sam’s studio I see colorful works of large format. Every work contains a story. Sometimes there are stories within a story, says Sam. “The smaller stories are sometimes even separate from the big story.” Animals play a big role: fish, especially huge catfish, birds, butterflies, also very large ones, dragonflies, lizards, horses, deer. Not to mention fantasy creatures such as dragons and of course people, who are often involved with the animals, such as horsemen. The landscape plays a major role in the form of clouds, seas and mountains. I also see coats of arms and drones.

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The pigment
Sam Hersbach not only likes to tell stories, he is also a lover of paint in its own right. He paints a lot with gouache paint, but he also uses his own acrylic-based paint. These are often combined in the same work. He shows a few bags of pigment from Verfmolen de Kat (Paintmill the Cat): Ercolano blue, Skull purple, Titan white, Mummy black. “Fascinating, sometimes with an age-old recipe. The pigment also has a story.” He also made egg tempera, but that smelled a bit too much like spoiled eggs after a while. He is now working on marram grass. He wants to use it as paint after grinding and cooking it.

sam hersbach – 6-

Dragon poo
We look at a number of works. Some stories appear to continue outside the painting and other stories manage to enter the painting from outside. Then you see fragments of something much bigger that you don’t see. There is a work of a man who hangs over a dike and regains contact with himself through a string tied to his toes. A number of his works have recently been displayed at the AMC, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. On one of the paintings, the AMC staff are thanked ‘Merci Health Cavalerie’. Sam: “A thank you to the doctors, the medical staff and the cleaners, they too have an important task.”
The painting ‘Dragon Poo’ hangs on the wall. The dragon poo is blue. The dragon appears to have flown away long ago, but he has left his poo behind. “Even mighty mythical creatures have a vulnerable moment, their Achilles heel. On google I researched the history of dragon poop. There appeared to be little literature, but plenty of fantasy. And there are websites that sell dragon poop.”

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Technology is a subject. At a work I see a drone flying through the image. “But the blades can also be plants.” Below it is a black and white drawing with the text ‘plan Sterrebos, private hunting area’. He shows the drone on his phone. It is an MQ9 reaper, an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, operational in mid-2023.
I see coats of arms, one with eye emblems and red slippery polka dots. “I think history is fantastic. I want to make a series of coats of arms, about 10, such as ‘the Belgian painting’. There is a lot of blue in it using pigment and gouache paint.”

sam hersbach – 9-

How would he describe his theme? Sam: “My main theme is fantasy versus reality. Fantasy comes in different layers. Sometimes fantasy comments on reality. There is total fantasy, like monster creatures, and fantasy closer to reality. Then I paint a tool, a night binoculars for example, but there is again a fantasy world around it.”
He mentions power and power relations as a second theme. This can be seen in, for example, a person without an arm, who has been stolen by a more powerful person. But also in the dragon. Especially if he depicts a vulnerable dragon. “Those things are close to my heart. Not that my paintings are going to solve that. Primarily there is the fantasy, I am always interested in stories. And also how people tell stories, how everyone tells a different story. How history is told.”

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Key work
Does Sam have a key work, a work that started a new development? He appears to have not so much a key work as a key moment. “That was in the last half of the last year of the academy, the HKU in Utrecht. A friend from my class, Emiel Zeno, handed me a canvas and said, ‘Go wild’. For the first time I made a figurative-like painting of nature in the area. I liked that. Before that I experimented.”

sam hersbach – 15-

After the HKU, where he graduated in 2017 in Fine Arts, Sam had a residency stay at Dooywewaard in Blaricum. He then went to De Ateliers in Amsterdam. That also included lodging. “Every Tuesday you got a studio visit. I met many inspiring international people there.” In 2020 he went to The Hague. “Largely because of Billytown, an artists-run initiative. Occasionally there is a collaborative project. It really is a group. You speak to each other. We meet a lot about practical matters.”
What is his experience of art life? “I can’t compare it to another life, I’m only living one life. Maybe something for a new series? The art life is interesting, inspiring, you meet great people. I work many hours, sometimes working late into the night. At residences you see people from all over the world. You also meet collectors, also interesting. I’m happy. But a profession as a baker is probably also fantastic.”
The exhibition at Billytown is on display until March 19. See:

1) (Hospital) maid service to fight against unbalanced ‘crawlers’, amid horsemen, Carnyx music and the weary devil in search of working volcanoes, 170 x 140, Acrylic binder medium, pigment, acrylic paint, charcoal, chalk, gesso, on cotton with a thin layer of UV-protective varnish, 2021, 2) 2021-2023NL mountains, Cosmic horror butterfly series, 50 x 40 cm, pigment, acrylic binder medium, gouache, acrylic paint, charcoal, wood, graphite, gesso, on cotton, 2021, 3 ) meeting shade, 50 x 40 cm, gouache, acrylic binder, pigments, chalk, charcoal, acrylic paint, on cotton, with a soft layer of UV-protective varnish, 2021, 4) 3.95 x 150 cm, Acrylic binder medium, pigment, charcoal, gouache, acrylic paint, chalk, graphite on cotton, with a thin coat of varnish, 2021, 5) Between two purple trees. Self-fishing bowling, small world summersaul (somersault) / Between two purple trees. Self-fishing bowling, small world solto, 240 x 200 cm, gouache, acrylic paint, gesso, pigment, acrylic binder medium, charcoal, on cotton, with a light layer of UV-protective varnish, 2020, photo: Gert Jan van Rooij, 6) Clumsy catfish hunting a ‘mysterious’ horse rider, while the enormous butterfly-like creature lands on planet earth. The catfish where unaware about the unearthly butterflylike creature, 50 X 40 cm, Acrylic binder medium, pigment, goache, acrylic paint, charcoal on cotton, with a soft layer of UV protective varnish, 2021, 7) De Esculaap Dijk, 80 x 140 cm, Acrylic binder medium, pigment, gouache, acrylic paint, charcoal, chalk, on cotton with a soft layer of UV-protective varnish, 2021, 8) low age, 120 x 160 cm, gouache, egg tempera, acrylic binder medium, pigment, acrylic paint, gesso , charcoal, chalk, on cotton, with a thin layer of varnish, 2021, 9) sam hersbach, portrait in the studio 2020 made by vita soul wilmering, 10) the harvest, 40 x 50 cm, gouache, acrylic binder, pigments, chalk, charcoal, acrylic paint, on cotton, with a soft layer of UV protective varnish, 2021. 

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