Carina Fernhout painted this larger-than-life meta self-portrait as Eve; to the right is Adam, to the left, her daughter.
KARL: Who does the Adam figure represent in your painting?
CARINA: Yes, what a difficult question! Maybe all the men I know, or all the men I want to know.
KARL: The Adam is really a meta-portrait of men?
CARINA: Yes, whatever that means.
KARL: Why are the figures so big?
CARINA: It wasn’t at first the intention, but when they are so large I can “feel” them while painting, almost like sculpting them; the canvas felt as though it were their skin. I just wanted them to be life sized, but they came out even bigger.
KARL: When you have a large painting like this, how does it interact with the environment where it is?
CARINA: Well, it takes up a lot of space, as a painting. It influences me, certainly. It took me three months to paint. When I make something big, I move a lot more, walk back and forth from the painting, and have a lot more exercise. I love to paint with a BIG BRUSH. It’s not always practical, but large is what I find the satisfying.
KARL: What is the effect of such a big painting to look at, once it is made?
CARINA: You can feel as if you are in the same landscape as the people on the canvas. When I see people in front of the painting, it as if they enter that world.
KARL: Here [below] you are with another self-portrait.
CARINA: At first I was inspired by the color white. I wanted to paint a woman like an Islamic woman with a white headscarf, but in the end it looked more like a bride in the Western tradition. I made a self-portrait because I was a little sad and a little serious. What I found nice to paint were these orchids behind her and running through her.
KARL: It is a very soft picture, and yet there is an intense gaze of you looking out.
CARINA: I don’t know why it is like that, but it says a lot about her feelings.
KARL: Is this painting about a longing you have to be a bride, or is it closer to the self-wedding of Jennifer Hoes?
CARINA: It has to do with a promise to myself.
KARL: What is the promise?
CARINA: To be honest to myself.
KARL: Is Jennifer Hoes causing all the women of Haarlem to marry themselves?
CARINA: [Laughs] I knew about her wedding. I’m sure it influenced me in an unconscious way. That is the good thing about Haarlem, there is a lot of inspiration in the air.
KARL: Please tell me about this double portrait.
CARINA: This is a portrait commission, also larger than life, of my neighbor and his daughter who are originally from West Africa. I chose to paint the portrait so large, and with thin layers, transparent, because it fascinated me so much — making it larger than life made it more real.
KARL: I see an intensity of gaze again in this picture, but the feeling is very different from the wedding self-portrait above.
CARINA: There is not a clear line between the father and daughter, they are so close together, there is an intimacy, whereas the self-portrait has a feeling of isolation. In the big Adam and Eve picture, these is intimacy in the way Adam’s arm is against Eve’s, but that is the only indication of intimacy or affection that you see. I felt that Adam and Eve should stand apart because there is a lot that they don’t understand about one another. With the father, a single parent, and daughter it is different, there is a much stronger bond.
KARL: How does this compare to your bond with your daughter?
CARINA: People often ask if the wedding self-portrait is of my daughter. I think that I identify very closely with my her, and she with me. But she is at an age where she doesn’t like that, where she wants to break free.