Bier en Brood

In the beginning of 2013, Bier en Brood made this huge mural at the Hofbogen in downtown Rotterdam. The insanely high detailed characters and the grimmy and almost apocalyptic vibe of their piece just blew us away. After we’ve heard about their new upcoming project at the Hoornbrekerstraat, we hooked up and had a good talk about their art collective, future plans and kapsalon.
Can you tell us something about the creation of Bier en Brood? How did this collective originated?

It all started out in 2007 with some people we knew from school, we were always doing a lot of graffiti together. Some of them organized parties and one day we were asked to do a live painting session during an event. We didn’t want to use the same name for the graffiti and the legal work, so we came up with the name Bier en Brood.

Why did you choose the name Bier en Brood?

There isn’t really a big thought behind it. It just sounds pretty catchy and after we decided to name it like this, people started asking ‘What does it mean?’. We always told them ‘You go to bed with a beer and you wake up with bread’. It is also a name which allows us to earn a decent living for ourselves. It’s our daily beer and bread.

When did you guys started working together?

We know each other from art-school, the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Koen: In 2010 I initiated a project called Hotel Kwanza, the painting of a 3km2 big containership. Among other Dutch- and international artists, I invited Jelmer to join us on this bizarre journey. The ship traveled from city to city, we had to follow it by car. Pretty much everything started out from there. Of course, we were bored to death in the car so we started to do some drawing. We took a piece of paper, one of us started, the other one continued etc. This basically was the birth of our first artwork together. The concept of switching around a piece of paper was interesting, so we wanted to know what would happen if we’d continue this process in our studio. Eventually, we started to spend more and more time on those artworks and so we made them more elaborate.

Breker 10B

Are you a kind of duo that are ‘on the same wave’ or do you complement each other?

Both. We each have our own unique style, but it’s really close to each other. We also use a pretty similar drawing technique, people sometimes say they don’t know which guy is drawing what. And sometimes, when it’s an old drawing, we don’t even know it ourselves anymore!

Are there any hidden messages concealed in your artwork, society/consumption critic-like messages? And where do you catch your inspiration?

It’s cool when people interpret our work that way. But its not something we necessarily want to express. Of course, when you look at our work, you cannot ignore the thought behind the drawings..

Our passion lies with the unconventional, sinister stuff and imperfectionism, things that are often ignored by society, but from our point of view inseparably linked to life.
About the inspiration, we like to check out a lot of sci-fi movies, post-apocalyptic stuff. Movies with a dystopic view on the future, also nature, architecture and machinery inspire us.

Jelmer Noordeman and Koen Harsma as Bier en Brood.

Before you start to draw, do you already have an exact idea of what you’re going to do, or is it completely random?

It depends on the project we get inspired, create an idea, we talk about it and start drawing. The Overkill exhibition for example, started with splashing some ink on a piece of paper, which basically formed the base layer of the artwork. Thereafter the detailed drawing phase kicks in, which can take days or even weeks.. We love to work this way, because of the free expression.

Can you tell a little something about your drawing technique? Are the dimensions of the original and print version the same?

First, we start drawing on a small format paper, anything from A5 to A3. We use smaller pens and/or tooth brushes, to create splatters. When we’re preparing an exhibition, we usually try to make screenprints in big dimensions.

What’s the biggest piece you’ve ever made? And which piece are you the most proud of?

Right now, it’s our piece over at the Hofbogen; a big mural named ‘Clash of the Titans‘. It was a temporary project, for about three or four months. Opperclaes is the organization behind this project, they’re hosting the wall and invite different artists to create their own big mural. This piece was most definitely our most successful one, but we always aim to go bigger and better! When we were making this mural, it was freezing cold and constantly raining. We had to finish quickly because we got the mobile platform for one week only. So we were outside for 12 hours straight a day, pretty hard, but the outcome was definitely worth it.

Clash of the Titans at the Hofbogen in Rotterdam Downtown, via Opperclaes.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes! A lot of cool stuff coming up. First of all, our expo opening at House of Ababa during Museumnacht (March 8th) Together with Thijs Ruwedata we’ll present our latest (autonomous) work all in line with the theme ‘Ontspoord’ (Derailed). In the meanwhile we have to deliver artwork for an exhibition at NN Douwe Egberts café (Rotterdam CS). In March we’ll be busy building props for PIP, a club in Den Haag. Furthermore we’ve been asked to paint a wall at a Rotterdam based hostel and after that Metropolis Festival is coming up, which means two months of non-stop working on their website and POS materials.. It’s gonna be a busy summer for Bier en Brood!

Do you have your own workplace in Rotterdam or somewhere else?

We both have our own studio. Depending on the assignment we’re working on and the facilities needed, we tend to hop from one place to the other. Future plans for a joint studio are developing. It’s just a matter of time and finding the right place for the right price.

Do you prefer working indoors or outdoors?

We prefer working outside for sure. It’s pleasant, especially with the sun on your face. When we were doing the mural, which took about a week, you see a lot of the same people passing everyday. So you start chatting with them, luckily there is a lot of interaction with people. Sometimes, people can get a bit weird, so you have to take some criticism as well. For instance, one lady passed by the mural and she exclaimed: ‘This looks like a nightmare, and I have to walk past this wall every day!’

Working inside is enjoyable as well, with some good music and a cup of coffee.

Did you already travel for your work? If yes, which was your favorite destination and why?

We already organized some exhibitions in Belgium. We had the project with the container ship as well, this boat crossed several cities and cruised along the west coast, to finally end up in Lisbon, Portugal. This project was the best travel, for sure! Koen also travelled to Australia 3 years ago, where he lived for 6 months, and won the 1st price at a graffiti contest.

Would you like to stay in Rotterdam or would you like to live/work somewhere else?

Of course, it would be cool to be engaged in various projects all around the globe. But staying here in Rotterdam is good as well, because a lot of cultural projects seem to get more and more organized in Rotterdam. Also, Rotterdam isn’t that big, so there are more opportunities we can take on. If you want to travel abroad and set up camp somewhere else, you’ll have to rebuild something new from scratch, or have a pretty strong brand name that people already know. So, Rotterdam will do fine for now!

'We prefer working outside for sure. It's pleasant, especially with the sun on your face. When we were doing the mural, which took about a week, you see a lot of the same people passing everyday.'
— Bier en Brood
Can you describe a perfect day in the life of Bier en Brood?

Have an easy rise and shine, then go finish the big mural we’ve been working on for a while. The sun is shining, our girlfriends and friends hanging around with a couple of beers. After we finally put on the last stroke of paint, we open up a few extra bottles of beer and enjoy the opening party!

Could you describe the Dutch food?

It’s very heavy, like winter food. But we have to mention something really typical Rotterdam: Kapsalon! It’s an aluminium-like tray filled with fries, meat, tomato, onion, lots of salad, some cheese and a crazy amount of garlic sauce on top. Even our Central Station looks like a kapsalon…!