Selwyn Senatori (1973) not only lives the sweet life, he also paints it: seductive women, full glasses, cheerful colors. A big party. You would say. But he also holds up a mirror to people. We visited the little big artist in his studio in the capital's Rokin. Text: Bart-Jan Brouwer
Portrait photography: John van Helvert
Online editor: Susan Poeder

Down to the last detail

In his studio we sink down on a painted bench (but then again, what isn't painted there?). Selwyn doesn't make coffee, he has it delivered, the best cappuccino and espresso. It betrays his Italian character. “I feel completely Dutch, but with some Italian characteristics. Everything must be perfect down to the last detail. The coffee, my clothes…” As a child he was always drawing, but he never thought about becoming an artist. “In high school, my art teacher gave me my first A ever. “She said: 'You should go to art school.' That's how it was presented to me.” Even after art school, he did not yet feel that he could make a living from art. “Never thought about it. I sold my first painting through a gallery for a few hundred guilders. The gallery owner decided to do an exhibition. It was almost sold out. I got some customers, another exhibition was organised... That's how it slowly built up.”

Check out the exclusive images from the shoot with Selwyn now!

Nouveau Bread

His art has been compared to that of Brood. “Just like Herman, I also use colors from the pot, spray cans… But what I make is very different.” For a while, like Brood, he allowed himself to be seduced into a wild existence. “I liked it: walking around in my suit, eating and drinking everywhere, waking up in strange places. I was flown business class to New York and Hong Kong to do my thing, live painting in clubs. I had blue markers with me and used them to draw on men and women. They were queuing! Blouses opened, skirts went up, tits flew out... I drew on breasts, buttocks, you name it. It was always a party. I was known as the guy with the blue marker. I enjoyed the attention. My ego was blown into the air all the time. It was difficult to get rid of that. That's why I'm so happy with my current wife, Irene. He's so fucking down to earth! That puts me back in my place.”

You must read this

How he met her – at the bachelor party before his first wedding (!) – is a must read (so scroll down and buy that magazine). When asked about his motivation, why he makes art, he answers: “There is actually no concrete answer to that at all. All I know: I have a tool in my hands to make something and I am fascinated by everything that happens around me. I filter that, I distill that, I throw that on canvas and then it's out of my system.”

In his work you can see his Italian roots, his passion for good food, wine, music, film, women and design. Yet everything in his work has a certain undertone, a nuance, that stings. “Some paintings are just like candy: pernicious, but wrapped in a beautiful jacket. Of course I want to make people happy, but I also want to teach them something. There can also be drama in it. You can't see that in that cozy jacket. The longer you look, the deeper you penetrate.

Oh shit, have I become such a brand-hungry box too? Everyone wants to be what society presents them with. That bothers me, people who supposedly know it all and tell you which sneakers to wear and what music to listen to. Be unique! That is the message hidden in my work.”