This past year, Belgium based artist Patteef, has been making a name for himself on social media. His instagram account has grown rapidly, in a short period of time, via. his digital collages, where he perfectly mixes classical paintings with pop culture, in a way that really draws the spectator closer and makes you curious to what is behind his compositions.
Who is Patteef?
Well, I live a very simple life in Antwerp, Belgium. A nice, bustling city, not too big, not too small. With a lot of attention for arts, music and fashion, on the banks of the river Scheldt. Patteef is a moniker, given by a friend, a long time ago. It was a combination of my name and a brand of shoes that I sometimes wore. For a long time I had this personal account on Instagram, where I shared things from my life along with minor image manipulations. But since a while, Patteef is a project where I combine classical paintings with images from popular culture. My personal story has become subordinate to the Patteef project on the app. That’s why I hardly share any personal things anymore.
All in all, I try to turn big tech algorithms into something positive for myself and whoever follows the account. In the same way that someone can get drawn into the rabbit hole when he or she is critical about vaccinations and does their own online research, those algorithms send me further and further into the world of tattoo models and tattooists. It’s about trying to understand the mechanisms behind big tech apps and how their business models steer our lives. And about the similarities in art over the centuries.
Ok, i respect your privacy, and wanting to stay as anonymous as possible, but what is the reason for that? Do you feel like this mindset works in your favor?
Maybe. Like other creators, I sometimes experience pressure to keep making collages that are sufficiently appreciated. The ‘likes’ game, you know. None of that should ever really matter, but it does weigh in sometimes. And so I prefer to draw a line between the collages and my personal life. It helps a bit to be able to see everything from a distance and to keep my mind healthy a little easier.
Plus, I’m sure most people would not be very interested in my boring daily routines or the places I hang out ; ) This is about the collages. I don’t even have a personal account where I share things, Patteef is very time consuming as it is.
What was it like growing up in Belgium?
The best. Don’t know if it is any different then growing up in in an other European country but I’m sure most Belgians don’t think much about this place they live in. We are always looking across the borders to head for some sun in summer or snow in winter. The grass is always greener… But (And it’s not just ‘probably’.) we do have the best beers in the world. ‘French fries’ are named after the wrong country. And this place is so small that you never have to go far to see, hear or do something new. Fits perfect to me.
Although the idea of growing up in the US also sounded appealing. And then I think more of the vast rural areas where you have a lot of space to, say, ride a dirt bike or go camping in the wilderness.
When and why did you start to make collages?
Even back when it was just a personal account I often shared small image manipulations with friends. So, scrolling through the timeline, it looks like the first little collage was posted in 2015. Hard to tell when things started, editing images has always been some part of my life. But at some point I started making collages, in the waiting room at the doctor’s, in between meetings or almost every time I had a few spare minutes. It was mainly to clear my head and not to think about the small worries that my 9 to 5 sometimes bring. I then posted them on Instagram, without any expectations. Only a bit later did I come up with a methodology and approach that might distinguish me from other contemporary collage makers. Because I think it’s nice to have that own identity to stand out from it all.
The pandemic worked in my favor. During the lockdowns you couldn’t visit museums or galleries and many of us did little more than scroll online. The account has therefore grown rapidly over the past two years.
What’s the art scene like in Antwerp / Belgium?
The art scene… Even though collage is an art form, I really can’t consider myself an artist and my works are not art. So that means that I don’t really go into artist circles either and I can’t tell you much about a scene. But some of my friends paint or photograph. (I think those are real crafts, btw.) And when the opportunity presents itself, we like to visit museums or art galleries. Belgium is not that big and just about every city has several museums where there is always something to do. Ideal to spend rainy days.
I disagree with you, your works are absolutely art, and they fit perfectly with NFTs, being that you already create your collages digitally. Have you thought about venturing into the metaverse? And what is your thoughts on the NFT wave?
Many people keep asking me about the possibility of buying a work that way. I’ve held off the NFT boat for a long time, mainly because of concerns about the environmental burden that comes from blockchain mining. But I informed myself as best I could in the last year, looked for ways to keep the ecological footprint as small as possible and will probably offer my first works as NFTs in the coming weeks.
I am by nature skeptical about hypes and possible bubbles but it gives digital artists a way to sell work that there otherwise might not be much of a market for. Of course I would have loved to have jumped on the bandwagon much earlier. But I’d rather think deeply about the quality I’m offering and think it’s still good momentum for buyers and artists
In a perfect world, what should the Patteef project be compared to?
Absolutely no idea, I honestly never thought about that. Let’s just say the perfect world will never exist. But I hope in it, digital collage art can set it’s foot alongside the more traditional cut and paste collages that most are familiar with. They seem equally valuable to the viewer.
And if Patteef can be just a tiny fraction in that great variety of online digital creatives, then that’s all I can hope for.
Anyway, it was a process. Hard to say where Patteef took over from myself on Instagram, but I’m happy he did.
Who do you look up to?
In order not to be influenced too much by what other people make, I only follow a few other creators. That’s a shame, because I probably miss out on a lot of fun content in the app, but you easily get on the same path of someone else if you don’t set some boundaries. And I’d like to avoid creating similar stuff others already did. So on Instagram I don’t really have examples of who I look up to. But in arts, on the other hand… Man, there are so many great painters in so many different styles and over so many different ages. Hard to pick just a few artists who set standards to us all. Caravaggio, Lucas Cranach the Elder, John William Godward, Giovanni Bellini, Robert Campin, Hans Holbein the Younger, John Singer Sargent, William Bouguereau, Simon Vouet, Fernando Botero, Luis Ricardo Falero, Sandro Botticelli, Franz Hals, Jan van Eyck, Jacob Jordaens, Rogier van der Weyden, Peter Paul Rubens… The list goes on and on.
When did you realize that your collages might take you somewhere?
Not sure the collages are taking me somewhere, but certainly people do. Reach is far more important than likes, so I am very happy to have so many connections, online and offline, through the account. The bigger it gets, the more users get to see the works, the larger the network gets and the more fun challenges cross my path.
There is no plan around ‘Patteef’, no goal where all this should go to. Recently there was a first ever exhibition, in Antwerp. It was a lot of fun to have some collages made on a physical carrier and hung on the wall so that people who are not familiar with Instagram could also view them. So if it’s one place I’m going to thanks to those collages, it’s meeting more people. And that is very important in times of lockdowns, isn’t it?
How does your friends and family react to your 5 minute collages, now that you are getting more known and a lot more recognition?
They obviously are very happy for me and often proud. Printing out a few collages and hanging them on the wall for friends and family to see created wonderful moments to experience together, without a doubt. Some off them were more aware of what I was making than others. So there were certainly a few very surprised, but positive, reactions.
What do you do when you’re not creating your art?
Work, spend time with the family and friends. Go out, have a beer and a laugh. Ride motorcycles, watch af football game or some cyclocross. Just random stuff that hopefully most of us have the privilege to do.
What is the vision for Patteef?
As I said, Patteef is a project in which big tech algorithms help to create a composite image. It’s a kind of loop where I combine bits of images found on Instagram with a classic painting. And then show the result on Instagram. If you would call this digital art, I’d be more then flattered. But the main purpose is to make you stop scrolling through your feed for just a moment and look at a newly composite image where old and new come together. Because all in all, not that much has changed over the centuries. People still want to portray or be portrayed to others. Possibilities used to be much more limited, a painter depended on the mescenas and the locations such as churches where his work could be seen. But now, with these apps, any artist can get an audience, worldwide. So if you are a tattoo artist, you too can build your own community, like those painters did. By posting pictures of your work, online. And the center of those paintings, the models, they do the same thing. So many talented guys and girls I see, building their own audience by showcasing the ink on their bodies. I have a lot of those accounts bookmarked for future collages.
I try to create these collages as fast as I can, on my Iphone using just a minimum amount of tools. That’s why I sometimes call them 5-minute-collages. Because I don’t want to create them on my Macbook, spending a lot of time in Photoshop and overworking them. But the flag does not cover the load as it should because a whole lot of time goes into composing the image. Matching the stance is the hardest and most time consuming part. So I go for hours through images, just to find two to match.
Who is your favorite artist?
Pieter Paul Rubens, we share the love for our city, Antwerp.
Any future projects coming up?
There are a few things planned, but I like to keep them to myself for a while, if that’s ok. Sometimes things happen very quickly, other times it takes months for the customer and I to come to an agreement, or sometimes the talks end with us parting ways without a collaboration at all. And then it’s not cool to announce certain things before they are 100 percent ready. Plus, often I’m picky about the collaborations I enter into. I don’t need to be able to live off Patteef at all, so that gives me the creative freedom that allows me to be very picky about the connections I make. But keep following the account, for the nice collages. And who knows, you might hear news about future projects soon 😉