On the surface Rock Candy, a book collecting Femke Hiemstra’s illustrations and sculptures, has a delightful air of whimsy and sugary sweet innocence. When you stop for a moment and look past the smiling faces and the colorful enthusiasm her art presents, however, it becomes apparent that there are darker and deeper waters present with its pages.
The first thing that came to mind when turning the pages of Rock Candy were the illustrations from a beloved copy of Alice in Wonderland, truth be told. Filled with cute and brightly colored characters in its own right, Lewis Carroll’s book shines with a sly darkness at every page turn. Both in Rock Candy and in the illustrations mentioned from Alice in Wonderland it seems almost as if there were a black layer of oil slightly wiped away from each illustration. Only, it wasn’t a complete job but was instead a slightly sloppy one that left behind a slick shiny brightness that failed to completely hide some of the left behind grit and oily shadows within all the illustration’s nooks and crannies.
Then again, this could all just be a way of searching for the right words to express both the delight and the candy-sweet darkness found in a book that seems to revel in frustrating and evading any written explanation at all… at least from this particular reviewer.
And so, hoping to understand the images on the page just that little bit more, to the source and to Femke Hiemstra herself, a look is taken and a few questions were asked and graciously answered:Thanks to the promotion team at Fantagraphics I was able to look through an advance copy of your book of collected artwork, Rock Candy. Before even taking time to open the book itself I must admit that the title caught my attention, but after having looked through it more than a few times I’m still intrigued by the choice. Where did the title come from?Rock candy, (the candy), has a sweet/sharp character. In my work I tell tales of characters that look sweet but find themselves in more "darker" situations like battles or a hunt. I compare my concepts to that of Rock Candy, sweet but with sharp edges. Looking through the book it seems as if you have a great fondness for painting onto found objects. What makes found objects so desirable to you? When you come to an object (whether a clock, book cover, old clock face, etc.) do you already have in mind what you think you’d like to do with it? Or, does the finding of an object and coming face to face with it then tell you what it would like to be used for?Often the latter. Old "canvasses," whether it's a book or an old wooden panel, tell a tale of their own. I'm a romantic and I love objects that have lead a life, so Flea and Antique markets and (vintage) bookstores are some of my favorite places. I feel "new" materials just don't fit my work.I tell about characters from all times and places and that mixture comes most (into) its own right upon an old surface.