Ramon Schalkx, a self-taught Dutch artist and sculptor, has captivated audiences with his unique creations that blur the line between abstract and figurative art. From working with various materials like clay, marble, and bronze, Ramon has embarked on a remarkable artistic journey, earning recognition and accolades for his talent and creative vision.
He is currently exhibiting his work in The Pavilions Amsterdam, The Toren in Amsterdam (see here). In this interview, we delve into Ramon’s inspiration, his artistic process, and his transition from a part-time passion to a full-time career as an artist.
How did you first get interested in sculpture?
Ever since I was young, I like to work in clay. All my life I’ve been creating. From furniture to animals, working in different types of materials. Around the age of 23 I saw how easy it is to work in gypsum concrete. I then took a piece with me to make a sculpture for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.
The reactions there were so nice that I decided to continue. First in soapstone later in marble and bronze. Within half a year I already won the 1st art and culture public prize for young talent. From there I went on to develop into the sculptures you see today.
Did you have any formal art training?
No never, I’m completely self-taught. I have only had basic lessons in working with marble. That is necessary otherwise you will quickly get injured. Marble is a very hard material. But the sculptures I make today are the result of my own search and experimental sculpting.
The lack of knowledge about material and technique means that I experience no limits when creating. This leads to interesting and unique works of art that even the bronze caster sometimes says is not possible. We decide to cast it anyway and then he also learns from it.
How did it feel to have your work recognised by the ‘Zilveren Kei’ Audience Award?
Winning the ‘Zilveren Kei’ was a huge honour. I was completely amazed at the time. It was also good motivation to keep going. And also a good learning experience because that was the first time art critics looked at my work. On the other hand, it was special because I had only been sculpting for half a year. Many of the participants had been attending an art academy for years.
Where do you find your inspiration for a piece?
I get inspiration from many things. Nature is an important subject. You see many forms in my abstract sculptures. But nature also returns in the figurative works. But also dance, movement and the human body. I am always looking for movement, dynamics and life. Each sculpture has its own story and inspiration. Sometimes that is a form that I have seen somewhere, but sometimes there is much more to it. Like for example For The love of Dance.
In conversation with a choreographer, he indicated that they are always looking for the utmost that a dancer can get out of his or her body. He advised not to strive for a perfect imitation of dancing people, but that I should continue where his art physically stops. My art takes over from a place where his art stops.
Was there some event that drove you to transition from part time to working full time as an artist?
I worked for a large corporate organization. I did the sculpting next to it as a hobby / passion. I sold regularly but was not convinced to do it full time. At some point I got the chance to step out and follow my passion.
What is the most challenging part of creating a piece?
It is especially important that I end up in a good flow. Now I can say that I can make everything in my head with my hands. Don’t think too much, but let yourself be guided by the work. Trying too much to recreate something will “knock out” life. It doesn’t have to be perfect as long as it feels perfect and conveys emotion and power.
Sometimes the challenge lies in the material and in coming up with the solutions. But because I am not inhibited by any knowledge, these solutions are often surprising and different than usual. Sometimes the challenge lies in convincing people that it is possible. The difference in challenge between bronze and stone is the process, the risks and the possibility to make adjustments.
It depends on the sculpture how I work. sometimes I have a photo from where of I work. But when I make an assignment of, for example, a Scottish Highlander, I work from different photos.
I sometimes also work with small wax models that I make in advance before I work them out in stone. But it also happens that I let myself be completely guided by the stone or by an idea that I elaborate in wax. Like For The Love of Dance. Such works arise spontaneously. Where my hands are an extension of my mind.
Some of your newer pieces are made from bronze, how does that differ from stone (apart from the obvious) and how did you end up using it as a material for your work?
With bronze you first work in, for example, wax. You build that from nothing. You can continue with this until you are satisfied. Even if it is casted you can still adjust a lot. Stone is less forgiving. Gone is gone. every millimetre of stone counts in the end result. Combining the two is even more challenging.
I started making wax sculptures when I lost my workplace. And just like that I discovered that I could do that to. When people asked me if I would cast the wax models I did. Both materials have there limits (I discovered) But it gives me freedom to make more of my ideas work.
Who is your favourite Dutch artist?
There are many talented Dutch artists that I think are great. Such as Studio Drift, Tom Claasen, The London Police, Pipsqueek Was Here. But also Kees Verkade with his beautiful moving sculptures. But if you ask me what makes my heart skip a beat when I see their work, then I really come to Augusto Rodin, Constantin Brancusi and Henri Moore. I find it difficult to choose 1one in particular. I am very broadly interested, that is also the case in art.
What are you working on at the moment? Do you take commissions?
I prefer to work on several sculptures at the same time. Also because working in Marble, for example, is very heavy and then the alternation with bronze is good. I am currently working on 2 sculptures of my own. In addition, I am working on 3 assignments. And I have already completed 2 assignments this year.
So yes I definitely do commissioned work. I enjoy going on a creative journey with clients and creating a sculpture that is completely to their liking. Of course I stay close to my art form and style. But that is also often the reason they choose me. I fully involve the customer in the process.
The design in which I transform their wishes and thoughts into a sculpture that comes to life for them. Selecting the stone or materials. I’ll take them to the bronze foundry if they want. I love it when customers are amazed that I translate what is in their head into a sculpture.
What is your favourite piece?
Currently there are two. For The Love of Dance. And an amazing marble sculpture that has yet to be delivered. I have not put this online yet. Stay tuned
Not currently. I’m very busy and even said no to two invitations. There is something to come, but that is not concrete yet. I am very happy with the opportunity to exhibit my work in The Toren Hotel. It fits perfectly there and guests enjoy it immensely.
What should I do in Amsterdam?
There is so much to do in Amsterdam. But for me Hortus Botanicus is a special place. With all sorts of special tropical and old plants and trees. Also a serene place in the hectic city. But also a lot of beautiful and interesting musea like Rijks, Stedelijk, van Gogh.
Or go to the Jordaan, and skip the touristic highlights like the 9 straatjes and wander true the little streets behind there. OR.. go to Noord with a pond from Central station. On the other side of the IJ there are a lot of amazing restaurants. Rent a bike if you dare;-) and explore the city.
For more info his art or to contact Ramon visit www.ramonschalkx.com