A talk with Toshy

the Dutch artist that gave birth to Intertrade's UNSCENT installation at Pitti Fragranze

Videos and photos: faces on huge, white canvases together with words projected... The Spazio Alcatraz at the Stazione Leopolda meets the art of the renowed Dutch Artist Toshy, for a special site-specific installation.
 
How did your collaboration with Intertrade come about? 
Having worked with an Intertrade team member in the past on some international artistic projects, I was invited by the company to submit an artistic proposal for their Fragranze installation. Fragrance is Who You Are was born quite naturally actually, as it was so clear to me from the start that fragrance and scents are remarkably strong forces of individuality. As an artist, I am particularly aware of individuality. Every inspiration is individual, every message is its own. Fragrance is similar in that sense. 

Tell us something about the installation… 
At Fragranze, you’ve seen some strong photographic and video elements that illustrate the beauty of individuality, the strength of personal style and personality. Powerful word associations, symbols, icons, drawings and color. In the artwork, faces of all races. Each "face" in focus, was made up of 3 people symbolizing the idea that fragrance both builds identities and influences the personality of an individual. I mixed animated video production, photography, models, video on canvas, photography and text, big works with mixed media... perhaps a bit like a nose or creator of a fragrance does with primary materials. 

Aren't artists and perfumers both transformers in a way?
Think about it. Scents are emotional. Scents make an impact. A vanilla based scent can conjure images of indoor tranquillity, winter moods or even softness and femininity. A citrus scent can evoke summer weather, a sensation of freshness, a reminder of trips taken. I translated a scent, a note or combination of notes into a certain energy that the individual can sense. And as an artist, I translate or interpret senses, colors, images, icons, hand writing, words, and much more into stories. My art is a continuous story-telling. What I suggest is let the art tell the story, and let the fragrance tell the story...

How can your work affect "art of transformation"? 
In art, we transform reality. We also transform a feeling, thought, image, event, emotion or story. And as viewers of art, we become either part of that transformation or simply the observer of the transformation. That is something I can not control as artist, because the viewer regulates that. Does that make sense? The art concept is all about creating identities with fragrance. All kinds of people use fragrances to create their personality, so if we use the word transformation, it makes sense. We use fragrance to reflect and to transform ourselves. 

Looking over your biography, you talk about art as a form of unlimited communication ... How do you think it's possible to communicate without limits today? 
To communicate without limits today requires being free, creating without restrictions, fears or brakes. It means trusting yourself and letting yourself go. 

You speak about your style of "storytelling art" ... how did this style come about and how did you develop it over time? 
Influenced by social topics, fashion trends and facts of life, I combine my copy-writing and typographic painting skills with and without photography, to create a new style of mixed media “storytelling art”. It's a style that may remind you of graffiti and street art, but it's actually much more about telling stories with a message.

What does it mean for you, "The world is your stage"? 
The "many faces" portraits in the installation are covered with painted text and symbols. Face painting has been used for artistic expression since ancient times. Before we sought to vent our artistic impulse on a cave wall, we painted our faces and bodies. In this power to change ourselves, we demonstrate humanity and set ourselves apart. In one way, we are actors in our own theatre, on our own stage. So, enjoy the performance. Be your own actor. There are possibilities always and everywhere to create your own stage and make it happen. 

 
How did your background of graffiti and street art affect your current creations? And your studies?
At the age of 16 (1986), I saw the documentary "Style Wars" and created my first graffiti paintings. Using the urban dictionary, I chose "Toshy", which was slang for "rubbish or crap". I was "too shy" to be proud of my pieces in the streets of The Netherlands so I signed it with "crap (Toshy)". At age 17, I created my first commissioned art and the Dutch press asked me for interviews. I started getting famous, and to continue my illegal art by night, I had to change my tagname over and over again. I used names like "Trouble" - "Scan" - "One" and "STS".  At age 19, I stopped with graffiti activities, the excitement was gone and it was too difficult to work anonymously. 
I finished the school of advertising and design, and started my career as creative director (1993 - 2012). I then developed skills in illustration, typography, videography, photography, copywriting and graphic design.