Pictoplasma focus: conversation with Raymond Lemstra


0mstra_OFF_CENTRE.jpgPoster for the Off Centre festival 2011

It seems to me that Raymond Lemstra came out of the blue. First of all his style is unique and as such doesn’t remind me of many illustration works i’ve seen before. But more surprisingly, he’s only started to focus fully on drawing last year. Yet, he’s going to be one of the key actors of Pictoplasma NYC, a festival celebrating contemporary character design and art.

Before working as an illustrator, Lemstra toured as part of the multimedia performance collective PIPS:lab and worked for MTV Networks as a designer.

His characters live in a sepia tone universe, some wear tribal masks, others are gentlemen with a neat little moustaches. Most have disproportionately big heads and unsmiling eyes that might make you worry about what’s going on in their mind.

I’m happy Raymond accepted to answer my questions:

eenweekFemke_Hiemstra_01.jpgCollaboration with artist Femke Hiemstra for the ‘EEN WEEK’ (‘A WEEK’ in Dutch) exhibition at the GO gallery

0aymond_lemstra_firepants.jpgFire Pants

0emstra_Full_Moon.jpgFull Moon

Maybe it’s the colours, or the way the characters dress but to me, the universe you create seems to be anchored in another time. Is it conscious? Do you have a specific decade or moment in mind when you work on new pieces?

There is not really a specific decade, but there are many periods in history that inspire me. For example the Renaissance with artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer who both had such diverse interests. The fact that arts and science mixed so naturally is something nearly impossible to imagine in present time, as people need big computers to calculate everything these days. Bauhaus has a beautiful sense of proportion and shape, I am thinking of Marianne Brandt‘s household objects, or Herbert Bayer‘s typography. Similar themes are found in the Amsterdam School, it makes me want to construct buildings or sculptures. I also find primitive masks very inspiring. Seeing man translating expressions and emotions into shapes onto a masks in different cultures, for different uses and through time is awesome.




Where does your inspiration come from? In particular the masks and totems, where did you encounter them? through travels, books?

As I walk around I encounter many interesting shapes, colors and ways they relate to each other. This could be in nature, architecture, fashion, or any random object. When you place these shapes in a different context they will have a different meaning, as they will have a different intention. They become charged with a certain expression. I think the human mind is very willing to recognize faces in anything, so it is a natural choice for me to create faces with these objects. This way I basically ended up with totems and masks that seem related to precolonial masks.

There doesn’t seem to be many female characters in your work. Is there a reason for that?

No specific reason. For example in my masks I am, amongst other things, searching for a boyish sort of awesomeness, so I end up with these masks that are kind of tough in a male way..


I particularly like the Fur work. What is the story behind it? Who is this character? Where does he come from?

Everybody that approaches me about this drawing has a different story, I like it like that. It certainly is a character that is dressed up and ready to join a ritual of some kind. He is part of something bigger. But at the same time there is something bothering him. Maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him?


What are you going to show at Pictoplasma?

I will be showing some new drawings and some prints.
And I will be giving a lecture, which is pretty new to me.
I tried to imagine what I would like to know about someone who’s work I enjoy.
Basically I would like to know what inspires him/her and how he/she developed over the years.
And then some other stuff.

Any upcoming project you’d like to share with us?

I will probably build an installation soon.

Thanks Raymond!


Don’t miss Pictoplasma NYC. The conference takes place on 4 + 5 November 2011 at Parsons The New School for Design, the exhibition will be open on 3 – 6 November 2011.