Femke Hiemstra, a Dutch artist, was "raised on liquorice and buttermilk," in her
words. Fittingly enough, her work is an alluring mixture of sweet and sour. An Amsterdam-based painter and illustrator, she is a new addition to the school of Pop Surrealism (see Tim Biskup, Camille Rose Garcia, Glenn Barr, Robert Williams, et al), a cabal of outsider artists informed by punk music, hot-rod culture and the underground comix of the 1960s. "Outsider" is a loaded term, but it gets at the Pop Surrealist refusal to curry favour with academic art critics and its tongue-in-cheek embrace of lowbrow iconography.
Hiemstra's new book, "Rock Candy", collects over 100 reproductions of the artist's paintings and illustrations, as well as photographs of her family, reproductions of her studio, sketches and photos of the very beautiful and
very blonde Hiemstra. Rendered in acrylic, coloured pencil or gilcée print, Hiemstra's paintings portray cats in top-hats weeping rainbow tears, lollipop-licking poodles, smoking snowmen playing cards and other such scenes of whimsy and vague transgression.
Certainly the artist's creatures have something in common with the glowing big-eyed characters of Mark Ryden paintings, only without Ryden's decapitations, inter-species breastfeeding, Jesus figures and midget versions of Abraham Lincoln. These omissions may be a good or bad thing depending on your aesthetic preferences. Hiemstra, in any case, does a wonderful job of offsetting her cuteness with a measure of tears, skeletons, Venus fly-traps and demons.
The palette, meanwhile, is unrepentantly pretty––can we call it girly?––and Hiemstra's paintings emit the sort of candy-charged excitement of Halloween night. "Rock Candy" is a jewelbox of a book, with its deep mauve die-cut cover and metallic red lettering. The only possible complaint to lodge is that the page size might be a bit larger, in order to better showcase the detailed narratives of Hiemstra's paintings. "Rock Candy" is, at any rate, a delightful new work for those who like liquorice and buttermilk, or better yet, both.
"Rock Candy" (Fantagraphics), by Femke Hiemstra, out now