Discover the Multidisciplinary Approach to Peter Schuyff’s Optical Illusions

The Dutch born American painter, sculptor and musician presents the viewer with the ebb and flow of undulating illusionary realities. Throughout the interview with Art of Choice, Peter Schuyff makes a point to highlight the intended personal detachment he has with his work, as an attempt to have the viewer hold the power of interpretation and meaning. The sensation of movement and volume in the grid-like forms overpower these massive bichromatic compositions. The artist’s talent has been admired by many for years, including Andy Warhol who printed a portrait of the artist in 1987 (see below!). Since the start of the pandemic, Schuyff moved his studio to a small city in Italy, where his approach to color is reaching new levels of exploration. We can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next!  

Cyclone, 2019, Oil on Linen, 150 x 150 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and when did art first enter your life? 

I was born in Holland but have lived in New York most of my professional life. I went to high school in Vancouver, which is where I started making art. Since the start of Covid I’ve been living in a small city in Southern Italy where I’ve been producing my latest work. 

Installation View at White Cube, NY, 2020, Photo Credit: Theo Christelis, Courtesy of the Artist

Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies? 

I don’t feel it’s changed in terms of style, I would say in my interests and approach. The palette, the relationship with light, and other forms of craft may have varied throughout the years, but I ultimately think that it’s for the audience to decide that. I’m just the vehicle.

Installation View at Pat Hearn Gallery, NY, 1984, Courtesy of the Artist

What is your process like? How do you begin a work? 

It really depends on the medium I’m working with. If I’m working with oil paint, I have a very traditional old mastery approach. For my sculptures I really try to get out of their way as much as possible. Like I said above, the work carves or paints itself.  

Untitled, 1981, Oil on Linen, 190 x 190 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

Walk us through a day in the studio. 

I don’t find them very pleasant. I think of my days in the studio as riddled with anxiety. My production process really has no structure generally speaking. Recently things have been different, since I moved to Italy in August.

Peter Schuyff, 1987, Andy Warhol, Acrylic and Silkscreen on Canvas, 190 x 190 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

From where do you draw inspiration? 

Inspiration has really nothing to do with it. The outcome of my work is the viewer’s inspiration and perception. Anything that comes from me has little to do with the paintings. My work has a life of its own. I see my presence in their making as the vehicle through which they’re made; to me it’s a matter of getting out of the way. 

Studio Image, 2017, Peter Schuyff with Sculptures, Baexem, NL, Photo Credit: Peter Tijhuis, Courtesy of the Artist

What larger questions would you believe your work asks? 

I’m not sure if that can be put into words. These questions probably vary but it depends entirely on the viewer standing in front of them, although I’ve never considered there to be much to interpret there. I believe it was Frank Stella who once said “what you see is what you get”. 

Studio Image, Berry Street, NY, 1986-1988, Courtesy of the Artist

Does your work reference any Art Historical movements? 

Sure, for example Mondrian or LeWitt have taken a lot of danger out of painting a grid. It is easier for me as a result. Or rather, it’s easier for the painting. The relationship is between my work and Mondrian. My own personal taste runs differently, I love Rembrandt etchings and Ray Johnson’s collages. 

Installation View at Bill Brady Gallery, Miami, 2019. Photo Credit: Zachary Balber, Courtesy of the Artist

What is your relationship to color? 

That’s an interesting question. To me it’s always been generic; I’ve had very little variation in my palettes and I dive deeply into variations of no more than a handful of colors. Since being in Italy that has changed all of a sudden. I’m not sure if it’s the change of scenery and light, but I’ve recently been experimenting actively with color which is a new territory for me. 

Peter Schuyff with Nicotine at White Cube, London, 2020, Photo Credit: Theo Christelis, Courtesy of the Artist

If you could have dinner with three major figures, dead or alive, who would it be? 

That sounds like a chore. It means I have to get on with the task of making dinner. I can’t think of any major figures I’d like to spend time with, basking in their glory. I can think of three close friends, dead and alive.  

What’s next for you? 

I’m currently just waiting for the pandemic to end. I’d like to go to Amsterdam next. In the last few months I’ve participated in shows, and as for what’s coming next I think I’m still figuring that out myself. 

1987 Picture (L-R) Peter Schuyff, Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nilsen, at Hoffman Borman Gallery, LA

At the end of each interview we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love and would like us to interview next. Who would you suggest? 

Charlie Roberts, based mostly in Norway.